The Road

By: Cormac McCarthy

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Biographical Information

Cormac McCarthy, originally named Charles, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 20th, 1933. He is a well known American novelist who has won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the James Tail Black Memorial prize for this novel. Although McCarthy is a rather private person it is known that he was married to 3 women, Lee Holleman, Annie Delisle, and Jennifer Winkley and had 2 sons, one, Cullen, with Holleman, and two, John, with Winkley. He was raised in a Roman Catholic family and attended the University of Tennessee, majoring in Liberal Arts. In 1943, he joined the Air Force and actively served for 4 years.

McCarthy's writing style is different than other writers because as he stated in an interview with the New York Times, he is "not of a fan of authors that do not deal with the issues of life and death." Dealing with these topics, many notable works of his are Outer Dark (1968), Suttree (1979), Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses (1992), No Country for Old Men (2005), The Sunset Limited (2006) and of course The Road (2006).

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Novel Analysis


In the need of survival, the bond between parent and child only grows stronger.

"My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you." Pg 77

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Main Characters and Their Conflict

The Father: He cares deeply for his son, is skillful, and is devoted to keeping him and his son safe.

The Son: Although he is only between the ages of 6 and 10, he is very compassionate, caring, and open-minded.

Conflict: The setting gives an apparent and permanent danger to the man and the boy. They are in a post-apocalyptic world where cannibalistic men rape and kill any and everyone that comes in their path. The man believe that when reaching the shore they will have better chances of surviving. Most of the novel they are walking down one road trying to find food and supplies while avoiding the cannibals.

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Symbol: The Gun

This item symbolizes safety but also tragedy. In desperate times of need, the gun came in handy like when a cannibalistic man grabbed the boy and the father's only choice in order to save his son, was to shoot and kill the man. Even though the boy was unharmed, this tragic incident took away even more of his innocence and youth. This boy was growing up in a harsh world so treasuring every ounce of innocence was hard to do. In this split second decision the boy witnessed a man die just to save his own life and there will always be a pang of guilt resulting from this. In retrospect, the father always said to the boy that if they get separated or the he was in a situation he couldn't get out of that he woul dhave to build up the courage to shoot himself. The father would rather have his son take his life instead of experiencing the disgusting acts of the cannibalistic men.

The way in which the father recieved the gun is tragic in itself. His wife felt that she would not last another winter in this new world. She decided to rid her family of her burden by taking her own life.

The gun is only meant to kill. That was its purpose-- to kill those who posed as a danger or nuisance to the father and sons survival.

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Significant Quotes:

Quote: "On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?" Pg. 32

Situation: The father and son were continuing their endeavor on the road.

Importance or Plot/ Character: He was reflecting and he was showing his innermost feelings.

Analysis: The father feels hopeless in this destroyed world. He is left on this earth with no chance of things looking up.

Quote: "And nothing bad is going to happen to us.

That’s right.

Because we’re carrying the fire.

Yes. Because we’re carrying the fire." Pg. 83

Situation: They were sleeping in a car when the father woke up startled and had to reassure the boy that they were safe.

Importance or Plot/ Character: This displays how the boy is still a child and needs to be comforted.

Analysis: The boy carries the fire in his heart. He carries passion and warmth with him and never let it dies because if that dies, so will his desire to keep going.

Quote: "He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins… What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not." Pg. 131

Situation: The man was reminiscing on his old life and his wife.

Analysis: What one remembers may not always be as it originally was.

Quote: "You don’t believe me.

I believe you.


I always believe you.

I don’t think so.

Yes i do. I have to." Pg. 185

Situation: They had just left a store in which there were decapitated head hanging. The boy had asked if there were any more "good guys"

Analysis: The boy had no other option than to trust his dad. He had nothing else to compare his situation to or anyone to tell him different things.

Quote: "Just remember that the things you put in your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.

You forget something don’t you?

Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget."

Situation: They were walking along the road and corpses were scattered along the side. The father pulled him close so that he couldn't see them and then said this quote.

Analysis: The father wants to shield his sons eyes because he is till young and shouldn't been seeing the sights in this destroyed world.

Likes and Dislikes

Likes: I enjoyed the layout of the novel. I was written mosaically which helped build suspense and kept the plot flowing. The piece was more modern which kept me interested and i was able to understand the plot completely. The novel as a whole was very intriguing and the relationship between the father and the son makes it all the more enjoyable.

Dislikes: I did not like the way the novel ended. McCarthy builds up the plot making the reader think that once they reach the shore, they are going to be in a better situation but in actuality they are in an even worse circumstance. Their supplies get stolen, they almost freeze, and the father dies. The author develops so much suspense and then leaves the reader hanging with unanswered questions like what exactly happened to make the world the way it is? are there any more "good guys"? Is the boy doing decently with his rescuers? and why did they have to stay on the road?