Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.Cormac McCarthy, The Road
There are books that entertain. There are stories that thrill. There are novels that give us that warm, fuzzy feeling. However, there are very few books that give us a lesson in perspective while depicting the farce that is society which is hidden behind a flimsy veil of sophistication and order. Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ has that distinction.
The Road tells the story of a Father and Son and their journey through a landscape ravaged by an unmentioned cataclysmic event which has left society in tatters. The father-son duo braves this bleak landscape and survives on what they can scavenge whilst trying to defend themselves against lawless gangs that stalk the road. But The Road is more than just a post-apocalyptic survival story. It explores the relationship between the Father and Son against a backdrop of death, destruction, and cannibalism. The two characters are a cacophony of contradictions but their sole reason for existence is each other. The Father is a survivor of the cataclysmic event while the Son had to call this world of wreck and ash his home. The Son’s sole link to the time when normalcy prevailed is the Father and the only reason for the Father to keep his breath flowing is the Son. The most prominent aspect is the conversation between the two: the innocent questions of the boy that are answered by a man who painfully tries to keep the fire of hope alive in an utterly hopeless world.
He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God, God never spoke.Cormac McCarthy, The Road
A deeper theme ingrained in the plot is the much coveted aspects that we treasure nowadays in our society that turned into the ash that is floating around. The ransacked shops and the lone Coco Cola can that they stumble upon are instances that cast a big question mark on our current consumerism laden landscape. Moreover, the futility of it all is depicted in the description of the wasteland surrounding the central characters. Another poignant point to notice in the plot is the interaction of the Father and Son with the other characters. As the dad tells his son, they are the good people that hold the fire and there are few others like them left in the world, although he himself is distrustful of everyone around them. This is incredibly noteworthy when they come across the thief that stole their supplies. They chase down the thief and the Father makes him give up everything he stole as well as the clothes he is wearing. The boy is incredibly distressed by it all and reasons with his dad that the thief was just hungry and the man replies that the thief did not think about them when he stole every morsel of their stuff. This is just one instance of the subtle depictions of human nature that McCarthy presents through his limited array of characters in this book.
The Road is a story of Father and Son while also commenting on societal values and humanity. It is a very gray and depressing book. It is not for the faint hearted. But if you have the courage to push through and read it to its entirety, let me assure you that you will be left shaken at the end with your perspective of the world changed for better or worse.