The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the heartbreaking story of a father and his son who are struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic world. The novel won Cormac McCarthy a Pulitzer Prize and it was certainly well deserved. This novel takes the reader into a world where people eat people and steal food from the starving without any qualms. Everyone is homeless, everyone is hungry and this man and his son are simply trying to keep each other safe and are struggling to maintain a higher moral standard than the crazed people who are all around them. It is a truly touching and wonderfully written story.
The first thing that any enthusiastic reader will notice about The Road is the grammatical structure and the way Cormac presents his characters. The book is not broken up into chapters, the way one might expect. It simply marches on, unforgivingly. Also, the father and son are referred to as the man and the boy. Their names are not mentioned once throughout the novel. Another interesting device that McCarthy used was the lack of “he said” and “she said” in his dialogue. Conversations are carried out without the reader being told which character is speaking, but it is easy to sort it out, nonetheless. This device is almost reminiscent of that used by Hubert Selby Jr.
A great aspect of The Road is the mystery of this post apocalyptic world around the boy and the man. Cormac McCarthy never explains what exactly happened to the world, but one gets the sense that a volcanic eruption of some sort may have been the cause of these people’s woes. Survivors wear masks to cover their mouths to protect their lungs from the ash that covers everything and floats through the air. The sun has been blotted out of the sky and it seems like the winter is nearly perpetual. All of these things would make sense in the event of a volcanic eruption. However, McCarthy never clarifies and it makes the book more interesting for it. Also, the past of the man and the boy are delved into very little, but you get the sense that they have been at their struggle for at least a few years. Again, McCarthy never truly clarifies and that is one of the greatest things about this book.
The Road is a fantastic novel. There are scenes that will make you cringe, make you want to scream, make you wish you were there to help this man and his young son and also scenes that will make you want to cry. This book is not only for people who enjoy a good survival story. It is a book for anyone who has ever loved someone and wondered what extent they would go to, to keep that person alive. It is a book for anyone who is willing to face the dual nature of humanity in the pages of a novel. Cormac McCarthy did an excellent job with this novel and his insight into the struggle to survive should be applauded.