Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men

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No Country for Old Men Major Character Analysis

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell

Sheriff Bell of Terrell County, Texas (Sanderson) witnesses evil done by men without souls, as he puts it, and it changes him irrevocably. Sheriff Bell’s investigative sprint to find either Llewelyn or the serial killer leads him into darker places than he could imagine. He comes to doubt his ability to bring justice to, or keep evil under control in, his small community.

His whole life of service to his community as sheriff has been an atonement for what he believes were his cowardly actions during World War II. However, Bell ultimately loses his motivation and quits the field of battle rather than continuing to fight and be killed. Though he does not believe that he has atoned for his past, he knows that he does not have the courage to put his soul at risk by confronting Chigurh or men like him.

Bell’s uncle Ellis reminds him that the world has always been a hard place and that southwest Texas has always tested man’s ability to survive. Bell needed to be reminded of that. Though McCarthy stops short of depicting Bell at peace and reconciled with himself, he does indicate that Bell has hope for his future outside of law work at the end of the novel.

His relationship with his wife, Loretta, keeps him balanced and reminds Bell that he has a life outside of his work. Bell’s home life provides a refuge and comfort for him. Though he discusses just about everything with his wife, he discovers that she will not confront him when she believes he is doing wrong. There are just some hard truths that he must handle on his own.

Loretta Bell

Bell constantly extolls the goodness of his wife, beloved by the prisoners that she feeds and talks to as they reside in the county jail. Many ex-prisoners bring their wives and children to see her and demonstrate to her that their lives have straightened out. She is kind and generous. Because of her goodness and his desire to appear in the best light to her, Bell protects her from his innermost thoughts and…

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