The Road
Cormac McCarthy
Contributed by Marshall Raine
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Page 95-Page 114

A significant scene from this segment is the moment when the two meet a filthy, old man. In the beginning, they are precautious, taking everything into consideration, including the possibility that everything is set up to be an ambush like the one they experienced in the house with the prisoners. The boy is the only one who believes that there is nothing wrong with the stranger and convinces his father to give him some food. When asked for his name, the elderly man replies, stating that he is Ely, but soon the father finds out that he was lying.  The stranger believes that personal information should be kept private. When asked why he gave them a false name he says to the father “I couldn't trust you with it. To do something with it. I don't want anybody talking about me. To say where I was or what I said when I was there." (Page 103).

As the stranger and the father talk about the boy, the father describes his soon as almost a god, because his goodwill is inappropriate for the new, deprived word. The elderly man believes that this trait won't last too long however, because in his opinion, "Where men can’t live gods fare no better" (page 104). He also states that trying to protect such a person can be a burden as it is a     vulnerable spot for someone who is striving to survive through the unknown.

They leave the old man behind them and continue their journey. When they stop to rest, the father realizes that they have no more oil to heat their stove, because when the boy shared food with Ely, he forgot to shut the valves. The son feels guilty and understands that his carelessness will have drastic consequences. The father’s compassion is shown once again here, not wanting his child to feel useless and guilty about what happened and tells him “It’s not your fault. I should have checked."(page 107).

Meanwhile, the father's medical condition continues to deteriorate. He starts coughing more severely, producing more blood. During one of the nights, he also develops a nasty fever which drains him of all his strength. After several days of enduring these symptoms, the father starts feeling a little better, so they are able to continue heading south.


One thing to note in this part of the novel, is that the old man whom they met on the road is the only character to whom the author assigns a name. Compared with the other characters, he is the one who has an identity. He is almost symbolic of a prophet, announcing how events will unfold in the near future. Unlike prophets in the Bible however, he does not bring good news. His words are enveloped in bitterness. Ely does not think humanity can be saved. In his point of view, everything is too far gone, there is too much destruction, people are too self-serving to recover anything. During a conversation with the father, he says that" When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here, but death and his days will be numbered too" (page 104). This signifies the fact that the man believes that soon everything will be turned into ashes and even the last glimpse of humanity will fade away.

The fact that the father’s health is deteriorating more and more every day is also a symbol of death. The father is becoming more aware of his critical condition and most likely knows what is going to happen next. During these feverish moments, the author frequently introduces flashbacks as a sign of the fact that the man is closer to the peaceful world that existed before the disaster. In this situation, the only way to escape this continuing pain is to die.

This section ends with the boy experiencing a nightmare while his father's condition has worsened. In his dream, he falls asleep near his father, but when he wakes up, his father does not answer him. This moment portrays the end of the novel and how his father will end his journey. On the other hand, the boy is also seen as a prophet who is aware of what will happen, despite his father's encouragements and reassurances. As the story progresses, even the father becomes aware that he won't be able to protect his son forever and that eventually, he will have to leave him. The only chance for the boy to survive is to be prepared for what he has to face alone. The entire road can be seen as a form of formative test for the young boy, teaching him what it takes to be able to survive when he no longer has a support system to rely on.

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