The Road by Cormac Mccarthy

The Road by Corm McCarthy is a novel set in a post-apocalyptic world following the path of a Father and Son. McCarthy is a highly celebrated award-winning author. He is 78 years old and has an 8-year-old son – an uncommon circumstance – underlining that for him, death is imminent and prompting him to consider the ideas discussed in his novel. In The Road, the father is undergoing a crisis of faith and so adopts an Existentialist view and creates meaning through his son – who therefore influences many of his actions.
I found McCarthy use of techniques such as Juxtaposition and antithesis that counter the macabre images throughout the book with those of love between the father and Son both repulsive and fascinating at the same time. The earth is in a state of despair – there is no electricity, transport or access to food/ water. Much of humanity has turned feral, losing all sense of the moral code that makes us human. McCarthy uses the Mother and Father to show conflicting choices made in this environment. The Fathers choice was to live because of the belief he has in his child, which he formed in his despair. If he is not the word of God than God never spoke. Because of the nightmarish situation the world has been placed in, he finds it hard to hold onto his religious beliefs concerning God and so instead looks to find another meaning in life to give him reason to continue – his son. If the son is not worth keeping alive then everything that he once believed in must be false. On the other hand, the mother takes a nihilistic view. “Why don’t we talk about death anymore? Because it is here. There is nothing left to talk about. ” She chooses to kill herself, as she believes that there is no point prolonging the inevitable. They will ape us, kill us and eat us. ” This represents a grotesque corruption of parenthood. For the mother to take such drastic measures we realize the true gravity and hopelessness of the situation. However, even though the mother can see this clearly, the Father, who cannot give up hope while his son lives, cannot bear to let this hope die even though it may be in the child’s best intentions. We can clearly see the effect the son has on his father because he has chosen to follow his belief system and fight to keep his son and therefore hope alive.
The mother and father are both in the same tuition but choose to follow different paths. However, as McCarthy further explores in the novel, both of these choices will ultimately end in death. Through the son’s actions, McCarthy suggests a different path to choose in this environment, while continuing to demonstrate the sons influence over the father. When they come across a shuffling, limping man who looks close to death the father insists that nothing can be done. “Can’t we help him Papa? ” The son shows a compassion and humanity that the father, in his quest for survival, lacks this.

He chooses to treat everything, hostile or otherwise as a threat. This is an understandable mentality but as the son demonstrates to us certainly not the only one. Later in the novel, the pair come across a little boy and a dog on the road. “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 something to eat…………. What about the little boy? He sobbed. What about the little boy? ” In this case, the boys kindness seems to go beyond Just compassion.
He seems to see himself in the little boy (if not purely for any reason ether insists that they cannot trust a little boy Just like him might make him consider if they really are the ‘good guys’ and ‘carrying the flame’ -the only comfort he draws from their situation. McCarthy clearly shows us the son struggling to accept his father’s mentality and starting to form his own based on compassion and his own innate goodness. The fathers crisis of faith develops throughout the novel. Towards the beginning of the novel, we see how he had mixed feelings over God, as he felt abandoned in this hell on earth. How does the never to be differ from what never was? Even with the son to place his hope in, the father’s crisis of faith is enough to make him question if god ever existed. To cope with the world he lives in he adopts the mentality of ‘shoot or be shot’ and treats everything with suspicion and little compassion. However, we see exceptions to this rule where the sons influence is concerned like when they meet the old man Eli on the road and the father gives him food due to the sons pleading. But the real change occurs in the father towards the end of the novel when he knows he will die soon and accepts the son’s mentality. Whatever form you spoke of, you were right. The father is beginning to understand the boys mind set. But immediately after this comes the death of the father and although showing the son truly alone, it also represents the death of his mentality and his religion which acts as an external body of rules used as a moral code. This organized religion has broken down in this environment. However, the son demonstrates a different path based on an innate goodness inside us. God was meaningless to the boy, he came from a world he did not understand or belong to. The boy never needed the father for meaning – His innate goodness is meaning in itself.
This mentality that the son can now carry on lends to the possibility of a future in this world that would be based on the assumption of an innate goodness in all of us that must be found in order to remain human. McCarthy is discussing the value of faith – something worth living for, a reason to try to survive in the harshest of Corm McCarthy discusses the relationship between father and son situations. In his novel The Road. The father choice to make the son his Warrant’ to live shows the influence he has on him. ‘Glowing like a tabernacle. ‘ He literally sees his son as a odd like figure.
However, McCarthy makes clear throughout the novel that the fathers choices he makes in an attempt to protect his son are, while understandable, far from admirable. The father constantly treats everything as a threat. The small boy they encountered was left behind because the father suspected a trap. He nearly killed the already half-dead man who stole their shopping trolley of supplies. The path offered by the son is the more morally correct and therefore human choice to make. It seems as if the author is counting on the existence of the innate goodness inside all of us.
Although he discusses the worst of what we are capable of, he sets up the expectation that humanity will find the best of itself. It is clear that the sons influence over his father went as far as to start to break down the walls of his religious mentality but in order to see the true demise of his organized religion the father must die. As a 16-year-old living a pampered life, this novel is a bit of a slap in the face. McCarthy forces us to ask the hard questions. At your core, are you good? Does your compassion outweigh your selfishness and greed? I would love to say yes but I’m not sure that I can.

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