Waking up to a world filled with death, more so an apocalypse, a man, his wife and their son are left at as survivors of a burnt out earth through the firestorms from the sun. The wife, sensing the worst, decides to end her life at the very start. Left with the son and the world to overcome, the father decides to take the steps and considerable measures to make sure that the life of his son is protected and to make sure that they survive. Creativity in the novel is introduced by the writer through interlacing the daily life and struggles and life of the father and his son as he travels from one corner of the United States to the other.
The subject in the new book by Cormac McCarthy is as big as one can imagine. The novel tackles an interesting array of subjects ranging from the end of the civilized world to the dying life on the planet and the spectacle that is found in the whole twist. The picture that is created and imprinted on the mind of the reader is a stunning one. It is explicit in a creative way; especially the amazing work of depicting the end of two travellers on the road headed nowhere (McCarthy12).
Numerous books have been written and contain numerous themes that reflect situations in real life. The themes in the novel allow a reader to relate to various aspects of their own life and to make an immediate connection. Life has numerous challenges and obstacles to overcome, and McCarthy uses this very aspect to push and convey various messages in his novels through the use of numerous themes in his book.
Storms and fires have consumed cities and forests and because of the ashes, everything has acquired a gray color with the river waters turning black. From Cormac McCarthy’s point of view in the novel, death is a major issue in the world. The captivating aspect of the novel is that it allows the reader to wonder around with the protagonists in the journey that they are set upon in the narration. Death knocks at their door severally, but they manage to survive through it all, although the father succumbs finally. The son lives to carry on the fire and see another day (McCarthy, p. 45).
The book covers survival and death as major themes, and the reader is left enthralled by the amazing imagery and stunning visualization that is created within the novel. It speaks of a man and his son, both of whom are unnamed, walking on an isolated and destitute road (McCarthy 23). In the end, the reader is left with no option but to view the world through the eyes of McCarthy. Though mystical and brief, the apocalyptic conclusion ends in an austere manner.
This literary analysis aims at expounding and explaining some of the major themes in the novel and various aspects that are of importance in the literary world or context. However, the greatest emphasis is placed on the theme of survival within the novel. The analysis is tied around the depiction of the various instances that point at the presence of the survival as a theme.
The theme of survival and resilience
Strong and great emphasis is placed on various practical aspects of survival of the human species and what it takes for a resilient person to survive. The novel explores various perspectives that require drastic decisions and actions to ensure that a person survives. Waking up to a world that is filled with death and nothingness, the only option is to choose to die or commit suicide, the way the mother of the boy did or to choose to strive to live against all odds (McCarthy, p.56). Overcoming and surmounting obstacles determined what a person achieves in the end. This novel uses the very obstacles that the son and father face daily to bring out the theme of surviving and resilience.
Survival may be loosely translated to mean the inventive efforts and attempts that are made at utilizing a few and scarce natural resources or disposed and trashed items to ensure that lives are preserved for another day. Survival in the context of the novel by McCarthy is based on actions and activities beyond the norm. He compares what man would do normally under no constraints of resources and the moral compasses that he would use.
The best example that can well express this idea is that; the unusual behavior and actions that a person may employ under the circumstances that present constraints and scarcity are what ensure survival. The behaviors that seem crazy and out of the contexts of moral norms; the ones that force a person to feel the urge to abandon the basic principles of morality just to ensure that they stay alive are what McCarthy uses to depict survival.
Within the novel, the reader is introduced to aspects and notions of cannibalism and marauders. Some of the survivors of the firestorms have formed groups and due to lack of sufficient food they have resorted to eating their fellow men. In a way, it is a perspective of survival, where they are fighting for a chance to live against all odds (McCarthy, p.73). Instead of dying from hunger, they choose to live and see another day by choosing to feed and predate on their fellow human beings (McCarthy, p. 76).
The weaker ones that cannot fight to protect themselves and defend those that they are with are left at the mercy of the cannibals. The marauders, on the other hand, steal and rob from people that lack protection and weapons of defense (McCarthy, p.86). Only the strong survive and live to see another day. Life in the post-apocalyptic world demands so much from the people still alive, and they have to make drastic decisions to ensure continued life.
In line with the protagonists, the father at times resorts to selfishness when meeting strangers. He decides to save the little they have for his son just to make sure that he lives. On two or three occasions that they encounter needy individuals, one named Ely, the father is against the son’s pleas of helping him (McCarthy, p.102). To him, the future or the day after holds so many impossibilities and uncertainties that offering help and trust to a stranger seem like squandering the opportunity and chance of survival.
The reader, from the very onset of the novel, expects that in a post-apocalyptic novel like the one by McCarthy, a tinge of surviving and resilience might find its way into the realm of major themes of the text. Survival is a daunting and challenging task. It is not everybody’s choice within the narration in the novel.
A few people tend to opt out; for instance, the wife of the man decides to take her own life in an effort to escape from the pain of being raped and murdered (McCarthy, p. 91). To her, life and integrity are more crucial and cannot and should not be taken from a person without their consent. Therefore, in taking her life, she ensures that her integrity is maintained (McCarthy, p. 103).
The ability to overcome and surmount obstacles is referred to as survival, at least within the novel. Survival is the central theme within the novel. The father’s ultimate goal is to make sure his son is safe. The little they have is meant for them alone (and no one else) to ensure that they survive. For instance, when they come across a traveller named Ely, the son is of the opinion that they should help him, but the father refuses such an option.
At some point within the narration, the man contemplates having to kill his son in an effort to ensure that he is protected from the cannibals. He, therefore, attempts to steel and come to terms with the idea of taking the life of his own child. "Can you do it? When the time comes? When the time comes there will be no time Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock?" (McCarthy, p.96). This scenario opens the reader’s mind to the world that the father and his son are entangled in. In an attempt to survive, some of the men in the novel have made peace and reconciled their minds to the point of resolving to eat human infants McCarthy, p.109).
He says, “I don’t think he should have anything” (McCarthy, 149). The son’s behavior is welcoming, but the father has other ideas. In the pursuit of ensuring his son lives to see a new day, the father loses himself a number of times (McCarthy, p. 68). He goes to extremes such as becoming paranoid at the safety of the roads. At some point, he warns his son against walking on the road and prefers walking on hidden paths. The extent of the paranoia and overprotection of his son are all geared towards ensuring that survival is achieved.
Groups are formed, and people gang up together to form militias. They wedge a merciless war that is aimed at ensuring their survival. They achieve the surety of survival by fighting and maiming any person that is not a member of their group. “Behind them came wagons drawn by slaves in harness and piled with goods of war and after that the women, perhaps a dozen in number, some of them pregnant, and lastly a supplementary consort of catamites ” (McCarthy, p.78). The reader is introduced to the new concept of society where the security of being in a group is tantamount to survival.
The thirst to survive becomes much greater than the conscience of the man, making him mean and selfish. For instance, when he catches a man who had stolen from them, he takes his belongings plus those of the thief (McCarthy, p.115). This goes a long way in depicting just how much the man wants his son to survive. Stealing and forcefully taking from the thief is not a big deal any longer to the man. In as much as the man and his son can be considered “good” within the novel, some of the extents that the man decides to cross in order to allow his son “carry on the fire,” (McCarthy, p.45) are beyond the normal moral confinements.
However, in the face of adversity and war that is witnessed by the father and son, they retain a purity of strength and hope of attaining their vision. The journey across the desolate land can only be complete if the man and his son manage to overcome every obstacle that they face along the way (McCarthy, p.56). In a nutshell, they have to strive to survive through the treacherous journey against all odds. The boy’s hope and belief in the goodness of people is worth mentioning. He refuses to lose faith in humanity despite the atrocities he witnesses alongside his father (McCarthy, p.79).
He manages to remain resilient and hopeful against all the gruesome scenes he experiences. The father, on the other hand, is less trusting and he is quite aware of the potential danger that lies in easily trusting people, yet he too manages to retain his humanity and does not stoop to the inhuman level of turning to eat his fellow human beings (McCarthy, p.89). His moral resilience does overcome his desire and instinct to ensure he protects his son and manages to survive.
All said and done, one has to appreciate the creativity that is poured in the book. The novel is captivating, and the reader has no option but to keep turning the pages. The choice of words, stylistic devices and plot all interplay to produce a captivating story of survival and hope to humanity. The entire novel has a resounding narration of hope that the reader can relive. McCarthy narrates the story in a way that the reader cannot escape feeling for the main characters within the novel.
However, death is a resounding theme within the novel which makes the theme of survival also stands out conspicuously. The end of the book restores the readers’ faith in humanity as a family of survivors save the boy; in essence, it underlines the theme of survival in the entire text. One can sum it all up by saying that the writer of the novel manages to interlace the various themes supporting one another in a very creative way.
The obstacles that people overcome in their lives are what define life. The connection between McCarthy’s narration and real life is on point. He manages to make the reader relate and associate the happenings in the novel to those in real life. One relates to it a personal level due to its creative way of bringing up daily life. The writer manages to present a resounding fact that there is more to life than the biological survival. It depicts the daily life and struggles that the man goes through in their daily life and the efforts that they have to enforce to ensure they see a new day.
McCarthy, Cormac. The road. Pan Macmillan, 2009.