On the cover of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, there is a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle: “His tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy’s stature as a living master. It’s gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful. It might very well be the best book of the year, period.” I am grateful that I have the opportunity to read this and express my thoughts on the topic.
Rotten Tomatoes gives The Road an average rating of 8/10. They say “The Road is a suspenseful thriller that shows an unbreakable bond between father and son. While trekking towards the coast, they develop a will to persevere the most gruesome of situations, even in the midst of the coming winter.”
The book is not set up in chapters. It consists of shorter sentences and run on sentences that are filled with many adjectives. McCarthy has a lack of punctuation throughout the book; he uses periods and occasionally an apostrophe or comma. This setup makes it more difficult for me to comprehend the emotions of the boy and the man. He uses negative diction throughout to describe things in the first twenty pages. On page nineteen, Cormac uses the words “cold,” “gray,” “heavy,” and “scavenged” to describe the scenery of the countryside. The hillsides are covered in “old crops dead and flattened’ (21). On page nineteen, McCarthy says, “Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.” McCarthy uses the words “down,” “dark,” “cold,” and “damned,” which all have a harsh negative connotation. I inferred this as him talking to Satan. I image the man telling Satan to bring on the worst of the worst for him and the boy because he feels that he can tackle whatever hard times life brings. The context before this statement is the man was in a theater with a woman and he “held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings” through her dress. I feel this is a representation of a way Satan is tempting the man.
In my book, we have only met two characters so far – the boy and the man. We are not given the actual names of the characters. I infer that the boy is a younger boy because on page thirty-five, McCarthy uses the words “toys” and “yellow truck” to describe some of the items he found in their cart. The reason I feel he is a younger boy is that my brother and I stopped playing with “toys” and little cars when we were between the ages of ten and thirteen. Throughout the first forty-six pages of the book, the boy asks lots of questions. I can image the reason he is asking the man so many questions is so he can learn a little more about the world around him. I infer the boy is scared of everything, which is understandable given the situation he has been put in. I feel him being scared could be foreshadowing something harmful to come further into the book.
I think, on the inside, the man is scared too but hides it from the boy in order to not worry him. The man is not said to be the father of the boy but has taken on the role of a guardian. He puts the care of the boy above the care of himself. He has devoted his life to tend to the needs, protection, and education of the boy. One example of this is the very first sentence of the book: “When he woke in the woods the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.” Another example of this is located on page thirty-four. McCarthy expresses that when the man pour the boy the last bit of cocoa, the boy reminds the man of the fact he “promised not to do that.” The man then “poured the hot water back into the pan…and poured some of the cocoa into his own and then handed it back.” The boy made the man promise that he would not only take care of the boy but would take care of himself, too.
Throughout the first part of the book, the theme that came up is a father’s love for his son. Although, it is not clearly stated that the man is the boy’s father, he has begun to take on the role of a father figure. However, on pages twenty-seven and twenty-eight, the boy is talking to the man and calls him “Papa.” There has been no mention of a woman or mother so far in the book. I did some research and found that Cormac McCarthy was divorced after only ten years of marriage and never got remarried. While writing, I feel McCarthy placed himself in the man’s shoes, and since there is no woman in McCarthy’s life, he did not place a woman in the man’s life.
The man is worried about their shoes and the lack of food. If their shoes get messed up or broken, they cannot easily walk everywhere they need to in order to continue their journey. In their situation of living out of a cart, they do not always know where their next meal is coming from. When they come to a new abandoned and burned-down town, they rummage through the ashes to acquire new food. There is a repetition of a “bend in the road” that occurs before every new city they are about to come across.
One thing I feel I can take from this book so far is expressed on page twelve: “The things you put into your head are there forever…you might want to think about that.” “You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” If you want something to stick in your mind, you do not need to constantly think about it. Let your brain think of it when it wants to.
I can’t wait to read more of this book!