The Road, written by Cormac McCarthy, is a powerful and poetically convincing exploration of a dying earth riven by an unidentified apocalyptic event. Within this setting McCarthy’s protagonists lead the life of hunted and exhausted nomads, of rodents moving from one scene of fleeting safety to another. The father and son duo – the unnamed ‘man’ and ‘boy’ – travel the road of the novel’s title to the ill-defined destination of ‘the coast’ and towards the flickers of hope that may bring them warmth and ensure their survival .Their life is one of constant dangers, be it from freezing weather, starvation, wild fires, or the evil intentions of their fellow survivors. Thematically, this is a novel about life, death, and love. McCarthy presents a black, heartless world – of that there is no doubt – but, amongst the rubble and decay love exists. This is presented primarily through the man and his son. McCarthy agreed, in an interview in 2007, that the novel can be considered a ‘love song to his son’, John Francis McCarthy, who was eight at the time of writing. Throughout the narrative, in sublime prose, we see McCarthy examine and contrast these themes masterfully.
McCarthy’s novel is infused with death. His setting is one in which all animal and plant life are dying or dead. His planet is a cold ‘glaucoma’, slowly getting darker with the ‘days more gray each one than what had gone before’. Vanished is the beauty of warmth and life – in its place is extreme cold, ashes, disaster and decay. The colour palette is predominantly that of monochrome blacks, whites and grays. At times we see brush strokes of red, the colour of blood and fire – symbols of destruction – if only to be reminded of the tools in which the grey world was created in the first place.
While the character of the man does not narrate the story directly, his reflections on the dying earth hold strong emotional resonance with the readers as he acts as our guide and analogue for ourselves. He reports seeing...