Memory and nostalgia work in complex, paradoxical ways in Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Road, both haunting the main protagonists, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and the father, as well as bringing them to crucial realizations. These men give up the traditional hero role for the more meaningful and generative image of “carrying the fire,” which unites these two novels. Carrying the fire represents a memorial and nostalgic longing for home and family. Bell and the father attain this vision because of their obsession with the past, and because of their struggle with memory and nostalgia. Memory, for these characters, has both personal and collective dimensions. Nostalgia, likewise, has a dual function, following Svetlana Boym's definition of nostalgics as being capable of restorative and reflective longing for the past. Family, or Paul Ricœur’s theory of close relations, bridges the gap between the conflicts of memory and nostalgia, acting as the means by which they understand this vision of carrying the fire while also embodying it. Additionally, the duality of both memory and nostalgia drive Bell and the father to seek for a prophetic vision, for stability in the past to deal with the threats in the present, which appears in the narrative structures of each novel.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Pugh, Marie Reine, "“There is no God and we are his prophets”: The Visionary Potential of Memory and Nostalgia in Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Road" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 5803.
Cormac McCarthy, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the father, The Road, No Country for Old Men, nostalgia, memory, close relations, carrying the fire, culture, prophecy, vision, Maurice Halbwachs, David Lowenthal, Svetlana Boym, Paul Ricœur