The book The Road is a book about survival. And the relationship between father and son in a derelict world. I read the book looking for the parts that make the characters the way they are, or through a character analysis lens. Through that, I was able to determine the main characters motivation, conflicts and the depth of their relationship.
It’s quite obvious early on that the man and the boy are dying of starvation and of natural causes. In a conversation between the two, we the readers can read the desperation the man has for survival:
“I know you’re scared. That’s okay. I think there may be things in there and we have to take a look.
There’s no place else to go. This is it. I want you to help me. If you don’t want to hold the lamp
you’ll have to take the pistol.
I’ll hold the lamp.
Okay. This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.
This conversation shows the external conflict that the two are both going through, the obvious lack of food. Starvation, sickness, and freezing will likely kill them before old age ever does. Food is their main motivation, and for the man, his main motivation is food for his son.
Another thing the readers can find in the text is the complicated relationship the man and the boy have. Often times they both agree on survival being their main priority, however, a few times the boy’s empathic mind gets the best of him, leading them to unnecessary (and possibly dangerous) interactions. For example, when the man and the boy find an old wandering traveller, the boy feels pity for the hungry man. Here is their conversation:
“The boy squatted and put a hand on his shoulder. He’s scared, Papa. the man is scared.
He looked up and down the road. If this is an ambush he goes first, he said.
He’s just scared, Papa.” 172
The boy later tells his father that they should give the travelling man something to eat. This is more about the man’s character than the boy’s. The man is not willing to risk an ambush for anything, he would do anything to keep his son safe, even if it means disregarding another person’s life. However, the man does give the traveller something to eat, as a result of the boy’s sympathy, something that makes the boy so dear to the man. The boy is the last glint of preciousness to the man, and he would do anything to protect that.
Another example of their relationship is on page 196, it shows the result of the setting and situation on the characters and their personality traits. The boy speaks first:
You don’t believe me.
I believe you.
I always believe you.
I don’t think so.
Yes I do. I have to.”
This exchange shows another part of the relationship between the man and the boy. In this case, the boy’s dependency on the man. It really shows that the boy really values the man and what he does to protect him. Young children need a guardian, but in a world of no rules and without government, children would either grow rebellious and unruly or would become completely dependent on an adult. In the boy’s case, the setting and the man’s impact on his upbringing have led the boy to become dependent on the man.