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Friday, 15 June 2012

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' was my AS Level text and for anyone who hasn't read it, I would highly recommend it. It's the most beautifully crafted story that's almost a post-apocalyptic fairytale, written very simply and without any punctuation but full stops. The form of writing takes a while to get used to but after the first few pages, the book is utterly mesmerising. About the relationship between the father and son, it's a poignant struggle for survival. There are 'the good guys' and then 'the bad guys', the terrifying 'bloodcults' who have turned to cannibalism and depravity just a year after the apocalypse takes place. It's an exploration into good and evil, just like any good book, but it goes deeper than that. There are elements of beauty in this new world, a world that is 'barren', 'grey' and 'godless', but with features of the old world dropped in, like the 'causeways' and the burnt down cars.

Reading it can be quite depressing - for much of it, it seems like everything can only ever just worse. The food is running out, the days are getting darker and colder, the man gets sicker and the boy's innocence fades. No longer does he react emotionally to the bodies that are burnt to doorways like leather; he abandons the few toys that he has and he stops being curious about the world. Yet even in all the darkness of this novel, what remains is the essential goodness of the boy - a boy that always want to help the people that he meets on the road, from a man struck by lightning even to to the man that steals their belongings on the beach. Although the man tries to bring routine and society into the boy's life, reading him bedtime stories and teaching him how to survive, what the reader does not see the man do is teach the boy to help others. In fact, the man tries to teach him the opposite - sharing food means starvation, talking to another traveller on the road means walking blindly into a trap. The emphasis that McCarthy places on the boy's giving nature and fundamental love for humanity despite the suffering that he has seen gives hope to the novel, hope that in an apocalypse, goodness will still exist.

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