The Road is a tale of a father and his son, set in a post-apocalyptic world (“barren, silent, godless”). The weather is harsh, and humans and other living forms have become rare. Both are on the road, moving towards south where they are hoping to have a better chance of survival. They move through deserted houses, scouring for food, fighting the bitter cold and snow, and hiding from other survivors who could be looters or cannibals. Both father’s and son’s physical condition are deteriorating.
The father is protective and is almost apologetic for bringing the son into this terrifying world. He is willing to be ruthless and take more risks to survive, unlike his son. The son is, on the other hand, more compassionate. He represents the goodness that believes in helping others. We can understand this in the event where the son sees a little child and wants to help him. But his father insists that they continue moving. In another event, a thief runs away with their belongings. The father catches the thief and wants to be punish him but the son pleads with the father not to be cruel.
While reading this novel, we can sense the tenderness and love that the father has for his son, and we also experience the child’s innocence and love for his father. Indeed, something beautiful can exist on the canvas of a terrible world.
McCarthy’s style of writing is about imagery, whether he is describing the beach: “at the tide line a woven mat of weeds and the ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore… Senseless. Senseless.” Or whether he is describing the boy: “The boy’s candlecolored skin was all but translucent. With his great staring eyes he’d the look of an alien”.
His style is also detail-oriented, making the setting plausible. For instance, the man and his son find an unoccupied bunker. McCarthy gives a detailed description of the bunker, describing the iron cots, the wall, the floor, crates of canned food, the lantern, and the utensils.
The two characters – the father and his son – are nameless throughout the novel. We read on because we want to know what happens to these two. Will they both survive? Where will they end up? Or perhaps another reason we keep turning the pages is the curiosity to know more about this distraught world that McCarthy has created with so much detail.
If nothing else, the book makes us appreciate what we have in our present life and probably also warns us not to tinker with forces that can create havoc.