Mini classic review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

There is no God and we are his prophets

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than me when I finished reading The Road and ended up loving it. This novel is profoundly deep and heartbreaking, and I enjoyed my reading experience so much.

The book follows an unnamed father and son as they traverse a long-dead and dystopian America that has become overrun by desperate humans who descend into cannibalism, because there’s barely any food left. The father and son rely only each other, and, as the book develops, we see how they are sustained by their love for one another, which allows them to survive again and again.

As the man and the boy travel the road, they come across different types of people, including cannibals, thieves, and others just trying to survive like themselves. The son constantly asks his father if these people are “good guys” or “bad guys”, and more often than not, the father responds “bad guys.” In this overly simplistic way, the father is trying to teach his son how to survive in such a dangerous world, but we, the reader, understand that these terms “bad guys” and “good guys” are not so black and white. The father needs to justify to his son how he treats other humans because his sole mission is to protect his son, no one else. The man has to decide whether he will take someone’s life, whether they will steal, or whether they will ignore someone in obvious hardship. A lot of the father’s decisions severely upset the son, but at least they’re surviving on the road.

The relationship between the father and the son is tender and loving, but forged in hardship and constant vigilance. The father makes some really horrible decisions, but the way he treats his son is incredibly loving and caring. Everything he does is for the child. I haven’t come across many books that feature such a strong, loving relationship between father and son — something I think more books by male authors should strive to do!

This book is unflinching in its depiction of destruction and love. Please do yourself a favour and read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s become a modern classic for a reason.

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