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Emily Minzel has commented on (1) product.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road

Emily Minzel, April 2, 2014

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is not what I was expecting. The novel follows a father and his son in a post-apocalyptic world, travelling to the southern coast. Their struggle to survive dominates the story. The somber tone of the novel is depressing throughout and never wavers. McCarthy’s decision to abandon the readers with an unhappy ending was intentional, leaving them wanting more. The boy and his father’s fight for life in McCarthy’s The Road is brought on by the post-apocalyptic, dull world they live in. The unchanging and relatively uneventful plot portrays a devastating journey that turns readers off.
The setting of The Road is dreary to say the least. Ash covers all. Everything is described as black, filthy and lifeless. Each night is “dark beyond darkness” (3) so nothing is visible. McCarthy describes everything in this way to emphasize the horrible conditions the world is in. No specific information is given throughout the entire book. Readers remain unaware of the names of characters, where exactly they are located and how long the world has been in ruins. The boy is most likely a pre-teen, but no age is ever included. One bit of information provided is the boy does not remember the previous world at all because he was too young. The father does everything he can to keep the boy alive. Hunger becomes a constant reminder of how he cannot provide for himself or his own son. While it pains the two, many “bad people” resort to cannibalism. The boy sees a “charred human infant headless and gutted and blackening on the spit” (198). This would scar any normal child, but the boy is almost resilient. Feelings of hunger, cold, and sadness are always present; sometimes they come in pairs. In the tragic end, the father finally dies, but the boy lives on, “carrying the fire” (283).
Many novels are full of literary elements that provide interesting detail, but The Road excludes most elements to showcase its uniqueness. McCarthy’s choice to eliminate important literary devices is intentional, but lacks purpose. The missing punctuation and terrible grammar is careless and overrated. McCarthy notes, “he drained away the filthy water he sat in and laved fresh warm water over him from the pan and wrapped him again in a blanket”, proposing a run-on sentence. The act is very common in the novel. If it was a way to show the toll the world has taken on the characters, it failed. Characters, as mentioned, remain nameless, which are in need of personal connections. Readers do not respond as well to the characters because all they have to call them is “the boy” and “the father”. They want something personal to latch onto, even if it is just a name. Also, the plot remains anticlimactic. The only major event happens in the very last pages of the novel when the father dies. The boy is left to fend for himself until someone comes for him. He joins a group of people, the group he and his father were looking for the whole time. Although it presents itself like a hopeful ending, it is just the opposite. The story focuses on the father protecting the son, but in the end, he cannot even protect himself. The tone of The Road is constant throughout. The depressing, heartbreaking tone feels like a burden on the soul. Dialogue is another omitted component. Though there is a little of it, the dialogue is not very prominent. It stays in the background, not playing a key role. The author does this to communicate that speaking is not everything. The fears and thoughts that go on in a character’s head is just as important, if not more than dialogue between them. Overall, McCarthy’s novel is missing key elements of literature.
When considering the book as a whole, it is still intriguing even though it lacks action. For the majority, the father and son are only walking. The road they travel is bare, dark and cold. The same ideas are regurgitated over and over again. Hunger comes up in so many instances that it is odd when the pair are not speaking of it. For me, it was obnoxious to be told multiple times that the same thing was happening. I wanted more twists and turns in the plot. I found myself to be bored with the storyline, wishing for excitement. At the same time, McCarthy’s artistic choices left me in awe. He was very specific with the relationship the father and son had. The son’s backlash against his father illustrates his coming of age in a confusing world. The major issue deals with lack of hope. The major theme is when hopelessness sinks in, there is not a lot to do about it. Their journey to the coast is filled with hope that better life will be waiting. Without hope, the son and father give up. The man proclaims, “hope is for eternal nothingness” (57). Readers are aware that he does not have the energy left to hope. When their dreams are shattered, the story takes a turn for the worse. The unpleasant death of the father is McCarthy’s way of getting under his readers’ skin. He does not give them the happy ending they desire, but instead writes their worst fear. The major complaint about the novel is the shortage of surprises.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy is mostly uneventful, but it has its moments of pure artistic genius. The novel is overwhelmed by the struggle for life. The depressing thoughts are extremely prominent and carry a somber tone. The hope the boy and man share dies off, followed by the loss of life. McCarthy’s novel proves that a person can only hang on to hopelessness for so long before he must give up.
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