The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is a novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, but it is not the normal zombie adventure that most post-apocalyptic stories are about. It was hard to adjust to the unique writing style that McCarthy uses to tell the story. He doesn’t give the main characters names, and the only punctuation he uses are periods, question marks, and commas. Initially the bleak and depressing tone throughout the book is a little overwhelming but this is what makes the book so unique, and by writing it in this way, McCarthy is able to create a world unlike anything I have seen. The main question that keeps coming to my mind while reading The Road is what motivates the man to fight for survival in such a hopeless world. Many people gave up hope, and most the people that are still alive have reverted to an animalistic and inhuman lifestyle. Most of the people that are encountered throughout the book are cannibalistic and seem to live without any morals or boundaries. Even the boys mother gave up hope on survival many years ago. The more I read into the book and learn more about the desolate world they live in the more I wonder why he keeps pushing on and fighting to survive.
My first thoughts were that he was simply living based on the survival instinct that is written in most people’s psychology, but I soon realized there was something else that motivated him to survive and I thought of his son. Maybe he fights for survival to protect his son, but why would he work so hard to preserve a future for his son when the only apparent future that awaits is misery, and eventually death. The man believes that God has entrusted him to protect the boy, and so he keeps fighting.
One scene that made me pause to process what had happened was when the man and his son encounter the people locked in the basement by the cannibals. I wondered why the people simply cried for help instead of doing everything in their power to escape the terrible situation that they were in. Did they give up on survival or were they just too exhausted to fight for their lives. This scene provides good insight into just how messed up the world is, and was a turning point in how I view the book. After this scene I began to see the book from a perspective based less off of our societal perspective.
It is hard to understand what it is like to live in a world such as the one portrayed in the novel as the world that we live in is completely different. All of the societal norms that control how people in our society are expected to live are completely irrelevant in the world from The Road. In order to understand what motivates the man you must first alter your perspective on society that is present in our world, and try to understand how different the man’s situation is from anything people in this day and age have experienced. After thinking about the book in this light, I realized that it doesn’t matter why he keeps pushing on, all that matters is what is keeping him alive, and that is his son. The story is about the relationship of a man and his son, not about the post-apocalyptic world and the crazy adventures that most stories of the genre entail. From my perspective the meaning of the book lies within the relationship of the man and his son, and not in where they are going and why.
Initially it was very hard for me to appreciate the story because of the bleak world and the violent and seemingly hopeless situation the man and his boy are in, but at its core this is actually a much more tender story about the love of a man for his son, and the good in a world filled with evil. All we see in the world they live in is desolation and death, yet this only strengthens the relationship between the man and the boy, and creates a bond that could not be achieved in any other circumstances.