The Road by Cormac McCarthy

‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy with an emotionally triggering ending evokes a reader’s core instinct to survive, which questions all aspects of humanity such as empathy. McCarthy provides two protagonists: a father and son, who we follow through their journey, through post-apocalyptic America, to the ambitious salvation of ‘the south’. Throughout the novel, one looks for answers regarding the origin of the apocalypse; is there a disease outbreak? A zombie apocalypse? A breakdown of law and order? However, as the story develops I realised that there were no answers to my questions because the sole purpose of the novel is to develop the paternal relationship between father and son during a period of constant darkness and uncertainty .

Throughout the course of the novel, the bond between father and son is developed through their unpunctuated dialogue and interactions with one another. Their conversations are how McCarthy communicates the journey to the reader. The dialogue is not punctuated because there is no one around to interrupt their speech suggesting that the environment is deserted, however, it also suggests a collective between the father and son. There is little to distinguish between the two, except for the child-like mannerisms of the boy, which provides the idea that both characters are close and intimate with one another. The relationship is developed to later trigger an emotional response from the reader in the shocking ending. I was left to imagine the future for the young boy whose fragility and helplessness is at the forefront of the plot.

Additionally, McCarthy puts the protagonist onto our side, metaphorically, as the needs for survival becomes more dire, to the point of murdering one of the ‘bad guys’. Although, one would usually associate murder with crime, I could not help but root for the protagonist on grounds of self defence. The ability for McCarthy to provoke such inhumane levels of anticipation makes the novel so interesting. Therefore, ‘The Road’ perfectly portrays the necessity of a lesser evil in order to survive the cruel post-apocalyptic world.

Although the reader roots for murder in order for the protagonists survival, the young boy remains with his empathy intact. The child begs his father to remain kind and humane when dealing with the other characters they meet along the way. As the father takes the more sensible choice to avoid death through killing, the boy trusts those who he encounters. However, one could argue that the boy is naive to believe in the goodness of humanity. But that only highlights the fact that the boy is a child that is forced into the unsettling environment around him. Either interpretation creates pathos for the boy because he is just an innocent child that juxtaposes the violent surroundings on the road to ‘the south’.

In conclusion, ‘The Road’ is a phenomenal read that allows a relationship between father and son to remain wholesome in the midst of an unpredictable period. The father and son are all that cause each other to continue reaching for their unknown salvation, through emotional support and providing each other’s will to live. Their limited supply of food and water keep them physically able to continue but the father relies on the love for his son to keep going.

An amazing read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone!!!!

Tuesday 14th April 2020