“Can you do it? When the time comes? When the time comes there will be no time. Now is the time. Curse God and die. What if it doesnt fire? Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock? Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing? Can there be? Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick. Pull him toward you. Kiss him. Quickly.” (The Road by Cormac McCarthy)
In The Road, McCarthy creates the impression of a bleak, dying world by revealing the mind of the narrator, not the world itself. He mirrors the man’s confusion and bewilderment at a world falling apart by switching the narrative voice from third to the occasional first or second person and refusing to give either the man or his son a name. As the book progresses, the grammar and spelling dissolves, as if grammar is unimportant at the end of the world. McCarthy stops using apostrophes in contractions and doesnt mind the occasional misspelling.
The reader is never told what happened to cause the world’s collapse, but fire is mentioned, and the ever-present ash. If the narrator knows what happened, he no longer cares. The man has only one goal and one thought, which is reflected not only in his actions, but also in the sparse prose. The pages are set up more like poetry than prose, with the short lines of dialogue separated by space instead of quotation marks. Like poetry, The Road has constantly repeating lines, i’m scared, papa, it’s really scary, which gain meaning every time they appear. All that is unnecessary is left unsaid.
Recommended Action: Buy –
Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Surprisingly hopeful, distinctly not sentimental
Further Reading: If you liked The Road, there is a whole Cormac McCarthy world for you to explore, like Blood Meridian or All the Pretty Horses.