Welcome back everyone! Today’s blog post is going to be about a book I am currently reading for my Apocalyptic Literature class called The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I just have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book, so I figured I would share. When I was in high school, I was never interested in the books I was assigned to read. Don’t get me wrong I love reading, but at the time it was more about reading what I wanted to read and about the books in the genres I loved to read like fantasy, historical fiction, mysteries, etc. There was something about being forced to read a book that didn’t sit well with me; it made reading less fun. Once I was in college that changed. I took on a new perspective, and I found the books that I had to read weren’t so bad. I loved learning about them and analyzing the different techniques authors used like what it meant when Shakespeare wrote in prose verses iambic pentameter. Maybe that is just the English major in me.
Anyways, this is another good read for October and spooky season. It does fall under the genre of apocalyptic literature hence the class name I am reading this for. This book is different from what we’ve been reading in the class. McCarthy’s writing style is different to say the least. He writes in more of a poetic prose way. There isn’t always correct punctuation, and there are no quotation marks around the dialogue. Like I said, it’s different from some of the other books, but that doesn’t mean the story and plot are any less what an apocalyptic novel should be about.
*Warning this book is very sad, depressing, and talks heavily about death*
On the surface, this book is about a man and his son who are traveling to the coast. They have no idea what will be there waiting for them, but the novel follows their journey of survival. McCarthy never explicitly says what happened to the world, but in my opinion, it feels like some kind of nuclear war went down. There is ash covering everything, the characters have to wear masks sometimes, and there is no color in the world. Everything is dark and gray. There’s no telling exactly how long the world has been in this state, but its to be inferred that it’s been a long time since things were “normal” for them.
When I first started this novel, I didn’t think I was going to like it. The writing style takes some getting use to, there are multiple breaks on the page between paragraphs of text, and like I said before, there is a lack of punctuation and quotation marks. But all of these things add to the emotions of the book and it reenforces the feeling of despair. This man and boy are traveling, trying to survive in this desolate world. They have nothing with them except a shopping cart with a few blankets, toys, and food. There are multiple times where they are scavenging for food because they have run out. They are really pushed to their limits.
This novel is really about what is important in life and what is life all about. It’s a book about human mortality, individual mortality as seen in the book of Revelations. How can you survive in a world where nothing seems to be getting better anytime soon? The man lost his wife because of this. She was tired of fighting; she was also very depressed and no longer wanted to live. She was in a state where nothing, not even living, was worth it anymore. That is truly heartbreaking. I tried to warn you, this book is sad…very very very sad.
So, you may be thinking, why read this book if its just going to induce a depressive state? Well, like all apocalyptic books there is a sign of hope. It may not seem like it after all I’ve said so far, but there is. Throughout the book there is a phrase that is constantly repeated and that is, “carrying the fire.” Fire, blood, dreams, and memories are the only things that have color. The fire in the book is supposed to be a symbol of hope; it represents the good in people. The little boy always asks his father if they are the good guys because they do come across some pretty nasty people. There are some horrible things they see throughout their journey, and it’s never a “long, drawn-out, in your face gory, scary description” its more of a “short passing description.” Which is part of the reason the book is so haunting and eerie. There are horrendous things, but if you’re not reading carefully enough, you’ll miss it. I’ll let you decide whether or not that is a good or bad thing.
Anyways, the little boy is so concerned about remaining one of the good guys. One of the people who still gives instead of takes, shares instead of hoards, and helps instead of bypassing. His father has never taught him any of these things, so it’s interesting to think about how the little boy knows to do these things. Where did he learn to care about people? The father, like how I imagine many people would respond, doesn’t want to help others or give away small portions of food away to others. While this is a story about human mortality, its also about what it means to be human and humane.
This may not be the book for you. I know I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if it weren’t for my class, but I think it’s a good read. And because there are so many spaces between chunks of text, it is a very fast read as well. I highly recommend you take some time to read it!