The Road
Cormac McCarthy
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Page 1-Page 25

At the beginning of the novel, an unnamed man wakes up from a dream to check his son who was sleeping next to him. He is worried because there is a chance they won't make it through the winter, meaning they will die as a result of the bad weather that seems to follow them at every single step. As soon as the first ray of sun tries to break through the gray sky, the older man, together with his son, wakes up and starts investigating the land in order to find out which roads head south. During their journey, they often lose track of time, space and who they are as an individual. The father frequently questions himself and his decisions. The only possessions they have are two backpacks and a shopping cart which was customized for the long road.

On the road, they stop at a gas station that seemes abandoned, but they still decided to check it, just in case there was some food left behind. It becomes obvious that the two of them are quite literally starving and that their amount of food is dwindling every day. Everything is described through a gray mist that covered the world after an unknown apocalyptical event. Since that moment, they had started valuing every single thing that previously seemed unimportant. Once they finish checking the station and conclude that they are alone, the father taks all the oil bottles that he can find in order to use it during the night to light the lamp. Nothing can be omitted or left behind. Anything can be helpful, anything can be used in these hard times.

Due to a rainstorm that’s starts outside, the two decide to rest until the next morning. During their discussion, the reader finds out that the two of them are heading south because they believe the weather will be warmer and that there, they will be able to last the winter. Meanwhile, the little boy expresses signs of fear, after he asks his father if he believes that they are going to die. The man doesn't give any straight answers but comforts him by saying that not at that moment (page 5). The sons question troubles his father who blames God for the disaster that surrounds them.

As soon as they wake, they continue their journey. They stop at a farmhouse where they manage to find a can of Coca-Cola which the father gives to his son. It seems like the son is too young to remember the taste of the soda, so they stand there for a few moments and enjoy a taste they will probably never experience again. After that, they continue until they reach the father's old house. The boy is hesitant to enter the building but, in the end, he is convinced by his father.  Everything is unchanged, the same rooms, the same cast iron in the fireplace, and untouched yard with even the hedge in the same shape (page 15). Despite his father enjoying remembering his past, the young boy becomes too frightened and convinces his father to leave the place. They spend the next days in another house which they find on the road South.


The first remarkable element of the novel is that McCarthy doesn't share the protagonist’s names or what really happened regarding the apocalyptic event. This symbolizes the theory that it doesn't really matter how humanity reached this point. Any disaster would bring the same consequences. What matters is the way humanity will try to find its way through the gray mist, death and destruction in order to blossom once again. The names of the father and son are irrelevant too. They are written to represent anyone and because of that, the author doesn't believe that it is important to give individuality to his characters. In a word that is slowly fading away, names of people and places become irrelevant.

Another element of interest is the fact that there are no delimitations between the dialogue and the narration. McCarthy rarely mentions who is talking, showing that the reader should be able to deduce this based on the vocabulary used in the phrases.

The conflict that is represented in the first part of the novel is the desire to survive in a world that abruptly ended, leaving only a tiny minority alive. The conflict is seen as being based on the idea of man versus nature; with every step the two protagonists take, they endure difficult conditions such as rain, earthquakes, and snow, all exacerbated by the lack of food which changes their priorities. A contrast with the modern world can be presented through this situation. The father and his son lack the concept of choice. They must resign themselves to what they have, and celebrate the small victories, finding comfort in any small positive that they find.

 McCarthy also frequently focuses on vividly describing the scenario, enabling the reader to become more aware of the harsh conditions the two characters will have to survive through. Almost everything was turned to dust and destroyed, and every single human creation tries to survive the apocalyptic event. In one of the passages, the author gives a description of the impact the horrific event had on the land " the country was burned away(...), billows of ash rising up and blowing down the country through the waste(..), the dull sun moving unseen beyond the murk" (page 7)

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