The Road by Cormac McCarthy Summary


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The Road by Cormac McCarthy Summary

There are only two certainties in this world that are experienced by human being   that is change and death. Unfortunately, the main characters in the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy experience both in the course of their lives together as they strive to survive. The man and the boy, who are the main characters in the novel, remain anonymous in the whole story as they 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.  The author attempts to show his audiences how love, patience, resilience and perseverance can push ones limits to higher heights. 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 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 and Stechschulte 69). As the journey continues, the man’s health gets worse and eventually dies in the wood next to his soon.  The author has used various themes to deliver his message across to the readers.  Some of the major themes in the novel that will be discussed in this assignment include the theme of parental love, death and resilient and survival.

Theme of love on the road by cormac mccarthy

Example of a theme that is widely evident in the novel is the theme of 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 (the road, 25). 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 (Lincoln 168). 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 (THE ROAD, 65). 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.

 Theme of death on the road by cormac mccarthy

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 ( The road, 49). 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 160). The novel is a tragic story that is set during world war two where the reader witnesses mass killing of innocent people.

Major themes on the road by cormac mccarthy

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. The theme of resilience and survival is widely demonstrated throughout the novel. 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 (the road, 24). 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 (“Further Reading” 99). 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 life in an attempt to escape rape and murder (the road 49). 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. 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.

Works Cited

Adams, Jenni. “‘Into Eternity’s Certain Breadth’: Ambivalent Escape in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.” Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature, 2011, pp. 144-172.

“Further Reading.” Cormac McCarthy : All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, The Road,

Lincoln, Kenneth. “The Final Story: The Road.” Cormac McCarthy, 2009, pp. 163-173.

McCarthy, Cormac, and Tom Stechschulte. The Road. Brilliance Audio, 2015.


Literary devices