The Road, Cormac McCarthy. New York: Vintage Books, 2007.
Summary: A dystopian story of a father and son helping each other survive in a post-nuclear America, scavenging for food and avoiding murderous mobs.
The man. The boy. The road. One’s life in backpacks and a grocery cart.
Using an old map to walk back roads to the South and warmth when there is no heat.
Evading murderous gangs who kill and eat their victims.
Searching every dwelling for any scrap of food. A fallout shelter unused stocked richly. Can’t stay long for the risk of being discovered.
A lone boy. He has someone, he can’t go with us. He’ll be OK. Really? Really.
Ash everywhere. Rains smell of ash. Snow is gray. A gray, sullen landscape under gray skies. Nothing alive.
Nights under tarps, shivering in each other’s grasp, trying to stay warm, yet hidden.
A cough. Worsening. Spitting up blood. Must protect the boy.
We carry the fire.
This is The Road. Not a happy story. One to give anyone who thinks a nuclear holocaust survivable. This strikes me a good rendition of what “survival” would be like.
It reveals the heart of darkness that emerges when the structures of civilization fail. Yet it also reveals the bond of a father and son, the eternal flame of hope, or will against all despair to live captured in the words, “we carry the fire.” It recognizes a goodness that will not die (“we are the good guys”) even if this means that you will only kill and not eat the enemy who threatens you. Yet it is a world where you are wary of any human beings, the few who remain. Are there any other “good guys?”
It makes one think of what we have seen during the pandemic, when a virus and a polarizing president have threatened the social fabric–violent mobs in the streets, and roving the Capitol. Plots to seize and kill health officials and governors and even vice presidents. Elevated gun violence. Car jackings. Neighbor fighting neighbor over the refusal to don a mask. What do we need to see that the fabric of society is more fragile than we imagined? The Road may not be so far off as we think.