The Road by Cormac Mccarthy: Overview

The award winning novel of the Pulitzer Price, “The Road” is a dark-post apocalyptic tale that tells of the journey south taken by a young boy and his father after an unknown catastrophe has struck the Earth. The man and the boy who remain unnamed throughout the entire novel are among the survivors left in the world who have not been driven to murder, rape and cannibalism. Despite their hardships, the man and the boy choose to remain optimistic by “carrying the fire”.
McCarthy successfully conveys paternal love between the man and the boy, which is the major theme of this novel by recreating real experiences of fathering a child at an advanced age as well as his struggles with outright poverty during his career, which combine to allow us to share the love and pain felt by the characters. From the very first page of this novel, we are introduced to the man’s warmth and affection for his son. “When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him”.
The effect of this on us is greatly heart-warming. This is because despite such difficult circumstances, the man’s first priority is still his son. By illustrating the closeness of the relationship between the man and his son, McCarthy is able to give us insight to our own society, by allowing love to persevere in perverse times. McCarthy is able to convey the love between a father and his son by using events such as natural disasters. An example of this is when the man comforts his son after an earthquake, “It’s gone now. We’re alright.

Shh”. The man attempts to be the pillar of emotional support for his son who has yet to be independent. Also, by reassuring the boy and offering him some comfort, the boy is able to feel his father’s care and concern, and so, the boy will feel loved and in return, reciprocate his father’s love. In less dramatic situations, the man gives his son as many “treats” as he can in such a world like an old can of Coca-Cola and a grape powdered drink mix. By doing this, we see the man’s sincerity in wanting his son to have a taste of normality.
The next issue in the theme of paternal love is, love as the driving force to ensure survival. This can be clearly portrayed by the man’s outburst of violence towards anyone who threatens his son’s life, most obviously in the scene where he shot the road rat who held a knife to the boy’s throat. “I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand? ” said the man. The man however, does not kill out of malice or for food. His wariness towards others seems primarily for the protection of his son.
The man’s ferocity can again be linked back to his love for his son as it is parental instinct to protect one’s children. This is proven as the man’s wife points out before her suicide that “the boy was all that stood between him and death”. In other words, the man’s unquenched thirst for survival is fuelled by the love for his son. Finally, McCarthy is able to highlight and explore the theme of parental love by emphasising the unending love between a parent and a child towards the end of the novel. At the man’s deathbed, he reveals to his son that “You have my whole heart.
You always did. If I’m not here you can still talk to me. You can talk to me and I’ll talk to you”. The man’s final words show us that he wholeheartedly loved his son and will continue to love him even after death. The boy on the other hand is filled with grief and begs to follow his father in death. “Just take me with you please”, he says to the man. This shows us that the relationship between the man and the boy has grown to the extent where the boy thinks that he would not let anything separate them, specifically death in this context.
However, even though the man cannot physically be beside the boy anymore, the man is right about them being able to speak again because all his knowledge, teachings and most importantly spirit, has been passed down to the boy so that he can keep ‘carrying the fire”. In conclusion, separation between family members, in this case, a father and his son may be painful and difficult to bear at first, but as long as the torch of love remains enkindled in one’s heart, they are never truly separated as the legacy of the one who has passed on now lives on in the one that still breathes.
Overall, “The Road” is a hopeful love-story between a father and his son. Even during the bleakest moments, the man’s love for his son, his unwavering efforts to protect his son and his hope for his son’s future makes the novel bearable and sometimes uncomfortably familiar. Although McCarthy has shown us a world where the living exist with “Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it,” he also shows that beauty and happiness can exist in borrowed time, in a borrowed world, through eyes filled with love.

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