Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy has been hailed as one accomplished writers of our era. The Road certainly is testimony to that statement. It is haunting, lyrical, depressing and full of love. It is an apocalyptic time in the future after an "event" has left the United States covered in gray ash. A man and his son with only a few blankets, a lighter, and a shopping cart are trying to get to what seems like the sea and the southern U.S. The narrative is without chapters and has only minimal punctuation as the two journey. It becomes cyclical as over and over again they find a dilapidated shelter, a bit food, some other lost people. But through it all Papa and the boy continue on because that is what they should do. They are the ones that carry the fire, the fire that gives them the impetus to live and to journey on.

The father is the protector and he will do what is necessary to keep his son alive. He carries a gun with two bullets in case it might be necessary to end the suffering. The son is incredibly morally grounded. He can't comprehend the idea that the when the pair meet a young boy on the road they don't stop to help the child. And so it goes as they travel on. With every step the father becomes sicker and sicker, coughing up blood, but so determined to live for his son. The ending is inevitable and we feel saddened for the boy who must go on.

This book could be used in so many instances on the Advanced Placement Exam. The language and style are the epitome of modern prose. I am anxious to see the film adaptation
starring Viggo Mortensen that will open this November. From the credits it seems that the mother may have more of a role than the brief glimpses that we get in the book of her shortened life.

Definitely another book that will stay with the reader as we ponder our place in this world and its future.

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