The Road by Cormac McCarthy-Research paper


For your final Research Paper you are writing about THE ROAD. You will be writing a 4-5 paper on what you think the THREE biggest themes in THE ROAD are. I want you to touch upon a few different things.

How they fit into a post-apocalyptic story

How they compare to books/movie/tv with a similar story

What they say about life/afterlife/religion

What are the overall things you are meant to question as the reader/audience

Along with writing about the biggest themes in the book, I want you to make sure you have research that involves comparing THE ROAD to other pieces of art (book, movies, tv) that also examine these issues. When you research these things, use what qualify as academic sources, and have a total of at least 5 sources throughout your paper.

For your “Third” essay I want you to do these things, and they will help you map out your work for your final research paper.

Pick the three themes you will be writing about

With each theme, tell me at least one scene in the book you think fits the theme well

Tell me one source you will use for each theme of your paper

Write a compelling opening and closing line.

Sample paper

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy revolves around the journey south taken by a boy and his father after a catastrophe hits the universe although the novel does not inform the leaders the nature of the catastrophe. The man and the boy who remain anonymous in the whole story travel in an unforgiving terrain of the southeastern of the United States in search of life as they attempt to survive after the catastrophe. The conditions they face in their journey is sickening, and the man tries to do all he can to protect his son from seeing them as well as keeping in mind all the things he does or sees throughout the journey. Some of the unforgiving things they see on the way include rotted corpse, terrain consumed by fire, abandoned towns, and homes. The man and the boy are among the few survivors in the story who are yet to be driven to murder, rape or cannibalism. The man and the boy struggle to find food and water as well as keeping themselves safe from other few living people who may be tempted to steal from them or even kill them to have the little they got (McCarthy & Stechschulte, 2015). As the journey continues, the man’s health gets worse and eventually dies in the wood next to his soon.  The son mourns the death of his father lying next to him for several days after his death.  Fortunately, he meets a kind family who invites him to join them, and he is forced to say his goodbyes to his old man as he prepares for a new life with a new family.

The novel the road has major themes that can be easily be pinpointed as they affected people in the real world and they largely affected the characters in the novel.  One of the major themes is paternal love that exists between the man and his son. Before the mother of the boy in the novel committed suicide, she clearly stated that the boy was the only thing that stood between her and death.  This statement clearly shows that the mother was striving and struggling to stay alive for the love of her son.  She wanted to be always there for him despite all the struggles and challenges that faced them at the time.  Additionally, the father has the undying desire and regenerated energy each and every single day to survive as he loved his son too much to give up. Despite knowing that his health is deteriorating each day, the man tries to assure his son that everything will be alright and soon he will feel better to seek life for the young boy (Hillcoat et al., 2013,). His love for the boy is too strong to the extent that he is ready to shoot anyone who dares to come in between them. On the other side, the boy genuinely loves his father and is concerned about his worsening health condition as he constantly asks if he will be okay. Notably, there is a similarity between the paternal love shown by the man to the son and that shown by Lord Montague and Lady Montague in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. These two parents demonstrate their love for their son in their concerns over his depression at the beginning of the play. As parents, they want the best for their son and to be in good health.

The other major theme in the novel is the theme of death. Death pervades the novel the road right from the word go as it is evident from the way the author describes the terrain, the struggles the man and the boy face for survival, the constant threats of murder and survival on the way as well as the suicide of the man’s wife. From the catastrophe, the earth is already steeped in death and ashes, and there is no a single sign of life especially in towns and cities. Most of the living creatures and the plants had perished in the disaster that completely wiped out civilization. Additionally, as the man trudges on in search of a better life for his soon, it becomes quite clear that he will not make it as his health gets worse which eventually slows down their movement. On the other hand, the author of the novel the book Thief Markus Zusak utilizes death in a totally new context.  According to the author, passing has nothing to do with why individuals pass on, but instead death exists since individuals kick the bucket.  In this case, the author gives the death human ability to enable it to separate the soul of the dead from the bodies and carrying these souls away (Adams, 2011,). The novel is a tragic story that is set during world war two where the reader witnesses mass killing of innocent people.

Another theme that is widely evident in the novel is the theme of resilience and survival. The author has paid a strong attention to the practical aspect of human survival and what resilient individuals can do to ensure that they survive regardless of the situation and circumstances crowding their way. For the largest part of the novel, the author shows the resilience in the man as he tries to develop methods on how he can use natural resources at his disposal as well as trashed items to ensure their survival. Notably, one of the methods used by the author to show this resilience is the use of cannibalism by some of the survivors a behavior that may seem crazy in another context but perfectly suits the content of the novel as these people find ways to stay alive (Snyder, 2011). On the other hand, the author tries to show that survival is not the only option and only the resilient individuals can survive. The man’s wife takes her wife in an attempt to escape rape and murder. The fear of the unknown and lack of resilient and faith drive her to commit suicide. Notably, there is a great difference in the context between which the theme of survival and resilience is presented in the novel the road compared to the theme of resilience and survival in the novel Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Laura uses resilience to show the adversity in Louie’s pre-war life. He was born poor but his defiance and thirst to excel pushed him to rebel against the limitations he saw around him by acting delinquently and stealing from neighbors and local business to survive (Jolie et al., 2015). His resilience allowed him to survive the war.

As the reader, there are some questions that I might be tempted since the novel was not that revealing.  The first question I would be tempted would focus on the catastrophe that had wiped all humanity and civilization in the novel.  Additionally, the question of the names of the main protagonist in the novel would also arise in the processes of analyzing the novel.  Finally, I would also have loved to know what happened to the son after joining the new family at the end of the novel and what happened to the body of his father.


Adams, J. (2011). ‘Into Eternity’s Certain Breadth’: Ambivalent Escape in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature, 144-172. doi:10.1057/9780230307353_6

Hillcoat, J., Penhall, J., Wechsler, N., Schwartz, P. M., Schwartz, S., & Mortensen, V. (2013). The road.

Jolie, A., Coen, J., Coen, E., LaGravenese, R., Nicholson, W., Townsend, C., … Universal Studios Home Entertainment (Firm). (2015). Unbroken.

McCarthy, C., & Stechschulte, T. (2015). The road. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio.

Snyder, M. (2011). Quicklet On The Road By Cormac McCarthy. Hyperink.