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The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a novel set in dystopia America and tells the story of survival, and love through a father and son relationship. My portfolio contains a thematic essay, a concept map, and a video remix. In this portfolio, I explore the idea of love that is shown in The Road, and how it connects to other aspects such as determination and dystopia. I’m glad I used this book, it’s filled with symbolic meaning, interactions that question your understanding of humanity, and the imagery takes the reader along with the man and the boy on their journey. So, after months of analyzing this book, I’ve discovered that The Road explores how the force of love is powerful enough to keep father and son alive in post-cataclysm.
The Force of Love: A Thematic Analysis
It’s a popular belief that The Road by Cormac McCarthy is about death and pursuing your goals. Many also believe that in the story there is no good left, or that it is about good vs. evil. Or perhaps readers believe it is about love. But they don’t realize that there is a theme incorporating the dystopia, the survival aspect, and desperation. There is a theme that relates to the previous topics including love that the main characters share. The Road explores how the force of love is powerful enough to keep father and son alive in post-cataclysm.
Quickly, the reader finds the love that the man and the boy share to be molded and shaped by their circumstances. For example, if any modern family were to normalize death in every circumstance such as the man and the boy do, they would be considered quite morbid and unwholesome. In one of their final exchanges, the man expresses his love for his son “I know. I’m sorry. You have my whole heart. You always did. You’re the best guy. You always were.” (McCarthy 298) This statement is an explicit example of the man’s love for the boy. The boy, after all, is his son. The Road gives the reader a choice about which kind of love the man and the boy share. Is it the simple familial love, or is the love truly about deciding to live for each other, because they are all they have. Either way, the love found in The Road, never once is it ever explicitly stated. Meaning, the word ‘love’ is never once found in the book. It definitely exists, otherwise, the boy likely wouldn’t be alive. Yet again, more versions of love are found. The boy’s mother thinks differently than the man. From her perspective, the woman believes that “I should have done it a long time ago. When there were three bullets in the gun instead of two [sic]. I was stupid. You cant [sic] protect us. You say you would die for us but what good is that? I’d take him with me if it werent [sic] for you. You know I would. It’s the right thing to do.” (57) Here the woman presents her disdain for the man’s decision to keep both her and the boy alive. This is a different kind of love compared to the kind the man offers the boy. The mother did not want the boy to suffer. On the other hand, the man did not want the boy to die, or to live a short life without fulfilment. In any case, evidence of love is prevalent throughout the story, however virtuous or controversial.
Secondly, there’s definitely a topic of determination. The man and the boy are determined to get to the eastern coast. Obviously, it’s not an easy task what with all the roadagents and gangs roaming the roads. Illness and starvation are natural threats. An example of the hardships they face is through an illness the man carries: “Already it was hard going and [the man] stopped often to rest. Slogging to the edge of the road with his back to the child where he stood bent with his hands on his knees, coughing. He raised up and stood with weeping eyes. On the gray snow a fine mist of blood.” (30) By the end of the book, when they do reach the coast, it is rather underwhelming. However, the pair likely would not have made it all the way without the determination they created together. The man also states that his only reason for living is to protect the boy. To keep him safe. To make sure the boy learns all he needs to survive in the harsh world of theirs. In the end, the man and the boy both have justified reasons for being as determined as they are.
Therefore, The Road is an example of how powerful the force of love can be in desperate times. It is important to remember that love can be used in many different situations. The Road is just an extreme example of using love to combat the hardships life gives and to overcome challenges with a positive outlook.
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