Author: Cormac McCarthy
Text Type: Fictional Novel
Date of response: 6th of February 2012
The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a novel about two people, a father and son, living in a post-apocalyptic North America. Their belongings are a cart, with scavenged food and tools inside, their clothes, and each other. Together they struggle to survive in this world, where many of the trees are gone, where the air, ground and all things are saturated with ash. Production of goods and foods has long since ceased. Survivors of the apocalypse must get by on canned goods and must ﬁnd ways to survive the harsh, frozen nights. But those canned goods become scarce and the humanity of many of those who survive is no longer existent when faced with the alternative of death. This book is about the struggle that the child and the father face together; the struggle between satisfying human needs and doing so whilst maintaining a semblance of humanity.
This novel does not follow a conventional structure.
In the ﬁrst scenes of the book, (this book is not separated into chapters), the reader is introduced to the boy and the man. It is clear early on that the man is the boyʼs father, as the boy calls him “papa”. The reader also understands that they have a cart full of goods and that they travel and sleep wherever necessary. This is the exposition. After that, the book follows them as they travel toward the coast, ﬂeeing from the cold habitat of the northern land. While traveling, they must also replenish their food multiple times. As they walk towards the coast and search for food, they are met with many ethical and moral problems. They meet a child whom they suspect, but do not know, has no one to look after him. They meet fellow vagabonds, starving and dying, with some of whom they cannot afford to share resources. The child asks child-like questions that spark deep philosophical questions of morality in the father.
Iʼm afraid for that little boy.
I know, heʼll be all right.
We should go get him, Papa. We could get him and take him with us. We could take him and we could take the dog. The dog could catch us something to eat.
And Iʼd give that little boy half of my food.
Stop it. We cant.
He was crying again. What about the little boy? he sobbed. What about the little boy?”
This is one of the complications of this novel that superimposes itself on the underlying complication of the lack of food: Can one simply watch someone such as a little boy walk off to their death?
This complication is not resolved in this book.
Another complication and moral dilemma of this book is the question of whether the man will be able to kill his son if need be. The remnants of North America, and if the rest of the world survived, there too, a majority of the people left were cannibalistic savages who raped and tortured those that they captured before eating them. His wife had asked him questions of whether he would be able to end their lives to spare them the suffering that they would be put through if they were captured.
“Now is the time. Curse God and die. What if it doesnʼt ﬁre? It has to ﬁre. What if it doesnʼt ﬁre? Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock? Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing? Can there be? Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick to pull him towards you. Kiss him. Quickly.”
There are several ﬂashbacks in this book, the man dreams of his lost wife and the moral dilemma that they faced, which was not resolved. The wife took on a fatalist view of the world, and wanted it over with. The man simply wanted his son to live, and to try and help him live as happy a life as possible. The wife then left, and it is inferred that she went to her death.
One character that has made an impression on me is the child. The child is always sweet and generous. It is heartbreaking to read the effects of the happenings of the world...