NCFOM – Calendars and Fate

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  • 22 Mar 2016 at 9:16 am #8229

    Hello, this is my first post here, but I have been perusing these forums with interest for a long time.

    I am writing a paper on NCFOM that among other things looks at how fate operates in the novel. One thing I cannot wrap my head around is the episode where Carson Wells, examining the hotel room with the dead woman in it, notes the calendar and the day the shot marked on it. He recalls this moments before his death, realizing its significance. The problematic bit is that after killing him Chigurh notes, “The new day was still a minute away.” Why is that? Is fate a bad timekeeper?

    A related observation: Carla Jean tells Bell she saw Moss in a dream and then kept a calendar to mark the days, finally meeting him on the ninety-ninth day. Now, since I subscribe to the notion that fate in NCFOM is not prescribed but rather circumscribed by the characters’ actions and choices, this is very puzzling to me. Does it not make it sound as if Carla Jean’s choice was not really her choice after all? Or is it that she made the choice subconsciously?

    These issues are ancillary to my paper but nagging all the same. Any idea is much appreciated.

    22 Mar 2016 at 6:14 pm #8230

    Richard L.

    The third person text is very much trapped in time. The screenplay clock runs as if the movie was already scripted, as if Bell, in his first person narrative, has no control of the situation–in another reality, say. Bell, like the absentee God, only looks on.

    Chigurh, a laissez-fare capitalist, cold-blooded and full of corruption, believes in contracts, but also in random chance. He is like Robert Penn Warren’s spider in ALL THE KING’S MEN:

    The world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide. It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things. Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God’s eye, and the fangs dripping.

    When Moss puts his life (and that of his wife) at risk and enters Chigurh’s web of interest, the spider Chigurh closes in as if to fulfill the contract. Because that is what the spider does, how he is programmed like a machine.

    Like most good stories, NCFOM allows Chigurh to make his assertions about fate while also allowing the counter-assertions about freedom of choice. For my money, this is McCarthy nodding toward chaos theory and quantum physics in the multiverse.

    When we look back (and characters in the text of NCFOM are always looking back, including the antelope), we see the great clanking inevitability of cause and effect. But in the observable moment, such as in the crisis when Moss must decide to give the man a drink of water or to take the money, when we look forward in time, we see the infinity of possibilities, choices, and outcomes.

    The novel has it both ways, as it should.

    Right now, Schrödinger’s cat might possibly be alive or dead, but once we look in the box, it is one way or the other and, once we look at it, our conclusion will seem as inevitable as fate and logic will not allow an alternate conclusion.

    (edit) I should add, at least in the time zone, at least in this section of the multiverse. Because the multiverse is infinite, fictional and otherwise, chances are, in some sections of it, Moss refuses to get involved with the drug money and notifies the sheriff, calling for an ambulance to try to save the surviving hombre.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by  Richard L..
    14 Jul 2017 at 6:17 am #9704

    Richard L.

    Someone needs to write a paper on how quantum mechanics plays out in McCarthy’s NCFOM.

    Schrödinger’s cat might possibly be alive or dead, we make it one way or the other by observing or measuring it, but it is actually our photons that make the difference and their corresponding equations. When charges are equal, as they normally are, they cancel each other out and nothing unusual happens. But McCarthy made Moss photon-sensitive. He is an expert shot, but he misses his shot when a cloud blocks the sun/photon flow momentarily.

    This creates an algorithm. It’s sometimes called “the butterfly effect” but as Richard A. Muller said in his brilliant book, NOW: THE PHYSICS OF TIME, it is more like the old saw, “From want of a nail, the shoe was lost, from want of a shoe, the horse was lost, from want of a horse, the man was lost, from want of a man, the battle was lost, from want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,” which dates back to RICHARD III, at least.

    The missed shot leads Moss to follow the wounded antelope, which leads to him finding the drug money, and to all of the events that follow.

    Moss steals the money in the full ego sun, but at night he lacks photons and tries to take the water back to the dying man, as if a drink of water might make things right. Later he picks up a teenage hitchhiker with the thought of laying her but at night he altruistically refuses to abuse her and even dies trying to save her.

    Like moss that only grows on one side of the tree, he is day and night but in quantum mechanics terms we are talking about equations and photons.

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