The Road by Cormac Mccarthy

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The novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy features many examples of symbolism in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the grim reality within the text: a nameless father and son struggling to survive in a world defaced by an overwhelming catastrophe. The symbols that McCarthy utilizes are of natural phenomena that once existed in harmony but now battle for dominance, such as darkness and water representing the opposing ideas of destruction and survival respectively, and fire and ashes representing disparate concepts of hope and death. In contrast to these earthly things, the road that they walk upon, one of the last existing human constructions features as a symbol of their journey of necessity to survive every passing day.

The road that the central characters traverse throughout McCarthy’s text is a motif that represents their journey through the wasteland they once called home. Their destination is the coastline, which is a few months’ walk away; their belief is that it will be their deliverance, as everything depended on reaching the coast. McCarthy depicts the road as fraught with danger, as no one travelled this road, and of those that have survived, many are depraved, bloodthirsty and unwilling to cooperate, like the army in tennis shoes and their slaves. Throughout the text, McCarthy situates them at crossroads… in the dusk, deliberating whether to die and surrender to the world’s evils, or to continue walking to free themselves from their helpless state. Their journey, unlike an archetypal exploration, is made distinctly unpleasant by the landscape colored in dim tones, which feature as a symbol of desolation.

McCarthy utilizes darkness as a symbol of the desolation and ruin that the world has experienced. While travelling, the central characters feel enclosed in the crushing black vacuum of the universe, fearing those that target them for food or the possibility that they will be dozing off and waking in terror, not knowing if...
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