Thomas PooserMr. Neil
December 5, 2017
The novel The Road is story about a father and his son surviving in an apocalyptic environment. In their world, everything is dead and burnt. The sun is blocked by ash and all plants and animals are extinct. Any people left are either alone and traveling or in groups that resort to cannibalism. The novel explains how a father tries to keep his son safe and do whatever possible to let him live a good life, while also fighting for his own life.
In the story the man and boy are not given names. The boy calls the man papa however. The plot begins with them traveling south to the coast. The man has a sickness and coughs up blood from time to time. The boy is dangerously skinny. He constantly goes to the man for reassurance comfort from the man. They both suffer from the cold and frequent starvation. The man sometimes has good dreams of his wife.
The main theme explained in this story is love. Love is shown throughout the entire story till the end. For example the father knew “that the child was his warrant. He said “If he is not the word of God, God never spoke.”(McCarthy 10) Another example would be when the father gave their last drink to the boy but the boy refused and made them share the drink. They were “each the other’s world entire.” Although the novel starts off with a sinister tone, it started off with the man and boy sleeping in the woods. The man has dreams of his wife but he doesn’t trust them.
Although love is a major theme in the novel, the father only has love for the boy and cares for no one else while the boy is nice and is willing to help people. For example they found a man walking, dragging his leg. He was struck by lighting and the boy wanted to help him but the father said there was nothing they could do. The boy insisted on helping but the father refused. The boy began to cry and kept looking back till he couldn’t see the man anymore. The father said “I’m sorry. But we have nothing to give him. We have no way to help him. I’m sorry for what happened to him but we can’t fix it. You know that, don’t you?” (McCarthy 67)
Another major theme of the novel is violence. Although love is expressed as well, violence is a result of the love of the man and boy. An example of this would be the killing of the bearded man. The man was awoken by a noise of people with hoods and masks on. The man comes face to face with the bearded man and have a standoff. The bearded man calls the man’s bluff by saying you won’t shoot.”(McCarthy 82) The bearded man dove for the boy and as he was putting the knife to his neck, the man took the shot and shot the bearded man in the head. The bearded man could have gotten away alive if would just complied with man. The man only shot the bearded man because he threatened the boy. As they were running away the man said to the boy “It’s okay, it’s okay.” (McCarthy 86)
Another theme of the novel is good vs. evil. The man explained to the boy that there are “good guys” and “bad guys”. The bad guys are the people who have given up and lost their sanity or has resorted to cannibalism. The good guys however are the people who still has hope for the future of humanity. When the man dies, the boy continues his own. He meets a man walking alone on the street. He was the only other decent human being in the novel other than the old man who lied about his name. The man had a shotgun, a scar across his face, a weak smile, and a lazy eye. The boy stood there with a knife in his hand and asked him “Are you one of the good guys?” (McCarthy 345)
The world Cormac McCarthy describes in the novel The Road is cruel. Another of the themes the novel is dog eat dog world. The reason it’s one themes is because in this world people who have given up have turned to cannibalism or has lost their minds. Either the man and boy defend their selves and kill or be killed. In the novel they saw a group of “bad guys” and saw a woman who killed herself to escape them. She was most likely captured and was about to be murdered for food or used as a sex slave.
Another in the novel is death. Death is explained a lot in the man’s and boy’s struggle to survive, and the constant threats of murder and starvation. The earth is already dead and is covered in death and ashes. Most living creatures and plants have not survived the disaster that has destroyed civilization. As the story continues and progresses the man becomes more ill. “In the night he woke in the cold dark coughing and he coughed till his chest was raw…. He knelt there wheezing softly, his hands on his knees. I am going to die, he said. Tell me how I am to do that.” (McCarthy 148)
An obvious theme in the novel was paternal love between the boy and man. The man and boy relied on each other for comfort. If they didn’t have each other, they would’ve lost hope, as the man’s wife points out before her suicide, “the boy was all that stood between him and death.” (McCarthy25). The man only tries to survive is because of his son. The man thought he could take the life of the boy when it was time, but he wanted the boy to live on and “carry the fire.” (McCarthy 341)
The man’s love for his son encourages him to ensure his son’s survival. The man showed the strength of this love many times, most obviously in his decision to shoot and kill the man who threatened the boy’s life without any hesitation. Throughout the entire journey, the man does not kill out of malice or for food. He only hurts others when they threatened the boy’s survival. His treatment toward others, which is justified, was for the protection of his son.
Another theme of the novel is survival. This included the man’s efforts to use the remaining natural resources or trashed items to survive. McCarthy focused on the unusual behavior in, for example, the murderer’s or cannibal’s behavior that might seem crazy. The man tried as hard as he can to survive when it came down to the boy’s safety. Despite his sickness he took care of the boy. H took care of him he finally lost to his sickness and died.
Another theme of the novel is trust. Trust is what kept the bond between the man boy strong. On the surface, this theme is expressed through the conflicts between the protagonists and other people they encounter on the road. For example, the man who draws a knife on the boy initially attempts to coax the father into joining his comrades at their truck. The father rightly does not trust this man–appropriately, since the man attempts to harm the boy only seconds later. In fact, the father does not trust any other individual they see or meet. Only his son extends his humbling trust in others, offering to help Ely and the thief without first determining whether their intentions are malicious.