â€œWhatâ€™s Wanted is a Clean Sweepâ€: Outlaws and Anarchy in Joseph Conradâ€™s The Secret Agent and Cormac McCarthyâ€™s No Country for Old Men
InÂ Chapter IV of Joseph Conradâ€™s The Secret Agent (1907), the character known only as the Professor laments that the climate of England does not provide fertile ground for the sowing of anarchist seeds. In America, however, he sees real promise. â€œThey have more character over there, and their character is essentially anarchistic,â€ he says; â€œThe collective temperament is lawlessâ€ (61). The Professor might well be referring to the world of Cormac McCarthyâ€™s No Country for Old Men (2005), a novel dominated by the outlaw figure Anton Chigurh, who seems to fully realize the apocalyptic American anarchy prophesied by Conradâ€™s character. McCarthyâ€™s novel affords the opportunity to examine the Professorâ€™s transatlantic comparison. Additionally, these novels investigate the relationship of artist to art and of writer to character, offering stirring examples of the interrelationship of outlaw ethos and aesthetic identity.