Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Road - Cormac McCarthy.

I am glad that I read this before the movie came out, or before I even knew that there would be a movie in relation to the book. I first picked this novel up for a class that I took two years ago called 'Valuing Contemporary Fiction'. I loved the class and I loved the book back then, but because it was for school, I had little time to go through it at a slow pace and take the whole thing in for what it is worth. I was forced to rush through while also reading other things for other classes, so I always wanted to return to it and experience it the proper way.

As is my style, I loved this novel from the first moment as a result of the plot. Apocalyptic, of course. This novel begins with a man and his son walking along the road on the way to the ocean. The destruction of the world has already began and finished for years, and all that is left is decay. The two walk in search of food and of shelter, while striving for the ocean. The two struggle constantly against the weather, the lack of nourishment, and the people that are left on the Earth who have resorted to cannibalism in order to sustain themselves. Although there is very little hope, the man instills a goodness in his son, teaching him the right way of the old world, as well as the methods of survival in the new.

The way the world became the way that it did is never discussed. There are a few times when the man will remember the past, and even one point where he recalls the night the lights went out. This can be assumed to be the beginning of the end, but the cause is never fully examined within the text. This novel is not about the end of the world, but instead focuses on the beginning of the new world that this man and his son must live in. His son never knew the world before, so I think one of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the comparison between the man and his son. In moments when most children would recoil in horror or cry as a result of the state of things, this boy is able to simply accept it as 'the way that things are'. He has never known anything more, so he is unable to compare and complain as a result. In comparison, the man struggles constantly and internally with the memories of the past and the way that things used to be, because he is able to compare the two worlds and understand that the old was better. He is unable to live as his son does.

I enjoy the fact that names are never given in the novel. The characters are given personalities, but never expanded on enough to force a mask over them. They can both easily be anyone, and it is this that makes the novel especially realistic. Because they can be anyone, it is easier to imagine being in their position. It becomes less of a story and more of a warning.

I gave this novel a 5/5 when I first read it, and I give it the same rating again. It is a very easy and quick read, and the subject matter is interesting. It is dark while still maintaining some semblance of hope, and it battles the division of good and evil, skewing the meaning of both in accordance of what it means to survive.

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