The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Try to imagine an apocalyptic event destroying most of the earth: scorching fire, eerie darkness, total devastation, and death. Several years pass. No electricity, no running water, no new crops thus food supplies dwindle. More death. People disappear and corpses accumulate. Gray ash continuously falls from the sky coating the earth. The sun does not shine and it is always damp and cold. “Barren. Silent. Godless.” And then The Road begins. The Road is bleak and frightening, but beautifully written. Cormac McCarthy draws the reader into the story with graphic images of the surroundings, strong characters, and effortless poetic prose. The writing style is simple. The dialogue has no punctuation; naturally primitive… like the surroundings in the story.
Against all odds, an unnamed father and son take to the road traveling on foot foraging food, fresh water, and shelter. They search for salvation. Small gangs of marauders roam the forsaken countryside. The father and son hide from all strangers. Strangers could be thieves, murderers, or worse… they could be pure evil. They could practice cannibalism. Strangers are “the bad guys”.
The Road is about faith and love. The father’s love for his son is absolute. He would do anything to protect his child… and does. “There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasn’t about death… He thought it was about beauty or about goodness. Things that he’d no longer any way to think about at all”. And the son knows that he is loved, and it gives him faith and hope. In spite of the evil that surrounds them, the son is pure of spirit and innocent of sin. The father is the son’s protector, and the son is the father’s spiritual guide.
And when The Road ends and you think you know how it ended, go back to the father’s thoughts and instructions to his son, like the passage on page 160 and reread, and then think again. Cormac McCarthy leaves the reader to wonder…
The movie was released in 2009 with some critical changes. The child in the novel has grown to a 13 year old adolescent in the movie. In addition- typical of Hollywood style- the movie contains a lot of sensationalized violence and drama and very little spiritual meaning. The movie was mediocre. The 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning book was extraordinary. Do yourself a favor and read the book.
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