The Road
Cormac McCarthy
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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Page 26-Page 40

On their journey south, the two protagonists eventually notice that somewhere far away there are signs of fire. As soon as they got closer to the area, they find footprints made in the ground and decide to follow it, in order to find out what happened. They see a man emerge from the woods, his body burnt by lightning strikes. The boy's humanity, what differentiates him from his father, becomes more evident as he continuously asks "Can we help him? Papa?" (Page 28). The old man is more rational than his son and convinces him to continue on their path without looking back because of the possible consequences that can arise from interfering with strangers.

The author introduces a series of flashbacks, making the reader aware of the man's past and also what happened in the world in the moments leading up to the event. "The clocks stopped at 1:17" is the phrase the marks the beginning of the ending (page 30). Meanwhile, the fate of the boy’s mother is divulged in one of the father's memories. As the world was fading away, she knew she was getting ever closer to loosing her humanity or having it taken by other survivors. Due to this constant, unbearable pain, she takes her own life with a piece of obsidian, refusing to say goodbye to her son because, in her opinion, those moments are a source of weakness and that is the last thing that the child needs to be exposed to in this cruel world. As soon as the boy realizes that they are leaving the house without his mother he doesn’t ask for any explanation. His only words are "She's gone, isn't she?" as he already knew the truth. (Page 34)

The father wakes one morning, alarmed at hearing the approaching sounds of a truck. Seeing armed, masked men walking alongside it, the father and his child hide until they come across one of the band, dressed in a biohazard suit, sharpening his knife. The father threatens him with his pistol, but the stranger doesn't look scared, instead looking at the father and the child in a predatory manner. He grabs the boy and puts the knife at his throat in order to intimidate the Father into dropping his weapon. In a moment of panic, the father shoots the stranger and runs away with his son in order to avoid being caught by the other members of the group.


The second part of the book is marked by symbolical flashbacks that outline the feelings and emotions the Father has for his wife. Even though she committed suicide, she is omnipresent in the father's mind.  At one point, after not being able to help the burnt man, he leaves the photo of his wife on the road "He sat holding the photograph. Then he laid it down in the road also and then he stood and they went on"(Page 29). In this paragraph, he becomes aware of the fact he has dehumanized himself, no longer the same man he was before the event. Slowly, even if it's against his will and conscious, he is becoming more similar to the bad guys. The only glimpse of goodness he has inside him is represented by the love for his son who must survive.

In terms of conflict, the reader is exposed to real physical conflict for the first time. The two characters involved are the father and the suspicious man they find on the road. It is hard to decide which of the two represents the bigger villain because both of them crave to survive. The father's actions are supported by his desire to see his son safe, while the other man is aware of the fleetingness of opportunity in this new world. The entire conflict is based on the concept that you either fight or you die, there are no rules, only survival.

Flashbacks are very common in this part of the book. Even though they disrupt the narration, their role is to offer a contrast between how the world was before and how it survived. Another element of interest is the authors desire to underline how the Father’s personality is becoming damaged and warped, once he has to experience more pain.

Another noteworthy section is the boy's dream. While resting, the boy dreams of a toy penguin who terrorizes his family. The toy is presented as a reflection of humanity, while its actions a result of the depths that humankind can do. This further confirms the fact that the apocalyptical event might have been a result of man's creation rather than the revenge of nature. There are many critics who believe that the apocalypse will be initiated by a human hand and this is the idea that McCarthy tries to implement in his narration.

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