Saving Sheriff Bell: McCarthy, Derrida, and the opening of mercantile ethics in No Country for Old Men

O'Connor, P. ORCID: 0000-0001-6877-2603, 2017. Saving Sheriff Bell: McCarthy, Derrida, and the opening of mercantile ethics in No Country for Old Men. The Cormac McCarthy Journal, 15 (2), pp. 152-176. ISSN 2333-3073

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This article examines Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. Rather than seeing McCarthy's novel as a paean to a lost conservatism, I offer a subtler philosophical reading. Utilizing Jacques Derrida's account of ethics and responsibility, I show that McCarthy offers a very rich account of ethical deliberation. On the surface, the novel presents a putative conservative ethics, where Sheriff Bell laments the current state of social laws and yearns for the simplicity of natural justice. Chigurh represents the logical conclusion of natural law, where morals are consistent with the natural, predictable, and mechanical laws of nature. The moral fulcrum of the novel dwells in the deepening wisdom of Bell in the face of Chigurh's mechanization and naturalization of ethics. McCarthy's philosophical and ethical insight in No Country for Old Men emerges from showing how the central protagonist Sheriff Bell struggles to exist beyond the good and evil he faces in the guise of the psychopath Chigurh's relentless rationalism. I conclude that McCarthy philosophically demonstrates the density and flawed nature of ethical decision-making, one that requires civil disobedience at the heart of the law.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: The Cormac McCarthy Journal
Creators: O'Connor, P.
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
Date: 2017
Volume: 15
Number: 2
ISSN: 2333-3073
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 06 Mar 2017 09:42
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2018 08:52

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