An unstable global atmosphere —violent wars, nuclear buildup, and natural disasters— unavoidably influences individuals to think about what life would resemble after a globe-shattering upheaval. The Road, a post-apocalyptic survival narrative presents a world where virtually all human values have been abandoned, and savagery and violence dominate the landscape (Carlson 46). Part fantasy, part fiction, and wholly night-marish, the novel displays the tale of a man and his young child progressing through a crushed American scene. A vague, horrible holocaust has left the world lifeless. In The Road, Cormac McCarthy establishes the road traveled as a functional symbol for human perseverance to continue progressing further when faced with the most adverse conditions, answering the novels central question as to why bother proceeding in such an infernal existence.
The road traveled is one of the few commodities that could not be destroyed by the hellish catastrophe that wrecked modern society. In American literature, roads usually symbolize the joyous journeys of life, but in The Road, they are fraught with uncertainty and violence. While traversing the road, the Man makes more prompt objectives to legitimize his survival, such as finding the coast or going south. Even when faced with man-eating gangs, thieves, and the heart-wrenching remains of the once-cheerful society he inhabited, the Man’s motivation to continue on never falters. The nature of human motivation is searched intensely, as qualities of steadfastness and determination can particularly manifest themselves under the conditions of extreme duress presented on the road. In a landscape where humanity and civilization have been degraded beyond recognition, the consistency of the location and function of the road depicts the same human perseverance that remains constant, whilst immersed in equivalent debased standards.
The road acts as a place of both restlessness and danger, where the Man’s loyalty to his son is tested over and over and over again. A significant part of the plot of The Road consists of the focal characters’ day by day battle to survive. This creates a mood of constant suspense and dread as death is a universal constant. Father and child are searching for the ocean, rummaging for food and escaping from groups of “bloodcults” (McCarthy 131). Security has completely vanished and brutality is omnipresent. At the point when the Boy and the Man experience consumed carcasses, plundered grocery stores, and different indications of ruin, they respond with no feeling. They have long turned out to be acquainted with a world where awful occasions are normal. All cannibalistic encounters occur on the road, a one-stop venue for immense barbarity in its purest form. In this way, the road comes to represent the battle to survive. Almost continuously, the road forces the question of life versus death, detailing the dreary existence mankind is forced to inhabit whilst illuminating the inevitable future of death. Thanks to the violent nature of the road, death is a constant, overlooking concept. Nothing grows. The lifeless bodies of plants, animals, and humans litter the road. In fact, awareness of mortality is so heightened, that it is often personified as a character. The Woman deciding to commit suicide takes death as her “new lover” (Hicks 53). Before taking her own life, the Woman asks the Man why they no longer speak of death. As he falters upon being questioned the Woman speaks for him: “It’s because it’s here. There’s nothing left to talk about” (McCarthy 93). As the man continues across the road, he gets closer to his destination and his own decease at the same time as he coughs up more and more blood progressively. The road illustrates the transient nature of life on earth and forces the reader to acknowledge that death must be taken into account in every step across it. The road can only be traveled at night by the central characters, for death lies in wait for them. When the father finally succumbs to illness in the novel’s closing pages his son’s prospects of survival are thrown into question once again. Completely alone, newly orphaned, and hungry, the boy encounters a man walking down the road who he eventually develops basic sense of trust and respect for. The man introduces the boy to his woman companion, and they continue the trip south, as the new watchmen of his wellbeing. In this regard, McCarthy sets up a feeling of congruity for the young man’s confidence, connecting the father with survivors who have held essential perseverance in a scene crushed by catastrophe. The post-apocalyptic, isolated setting depicted of The Road forces a central question as to why even worry of survival in a likewise situation. Vast amounts of ash obscure the sun’s rays. There are no crops and few living things except humans (Schmitt 139). McCarthy describes the road itself as “…a sound without cognate and so without description, something imponderable shifting out there in the dark” (McCarthy 118). This question is answered with the prospects of traveling on the road. The man has no reason to continue on with the exception of his affection for his son and his normal, human want to continue to his final destination. The man’s reason to keep struggling comes to him as the idea of “carrying the fire”. “Carrying the fire” is a concept that seems to consist, for him, of preserving the goodness or civilization of mankind by maintaining basic humanity, avoiding murder and cannibalism, and demonstrating love and compassion to his son, despite his naivety. For the man, isolation compounds into resembled alienation. His memory of a previous world becomes more desolate (Cooper 2). The true effects of continued isolation on the natural human drive to endure is brought to light in one of the Man’s outbursts, as he questions, “He’ll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He’ll say: Where did everybody go? And that’s how it will be.” (McCarthy 53).
The intriguing query is subtly acknowledged once again through the stark juxtaposition between good and evil in the Man and the Boy as they react differently to various situations on the road. The father’s adherence to a basic moral code comes into continual conflict with the craven, desperate behavior of the other men and women. Civilized human interactions give way to an atmosphere of deep distrust (Donahue 1). The Boy serves as a foil for his father’s wariness to all travelers witnessed on the road. Notably, after the Man strips a robber, the boy begs the father to show him forgiveness. While the boy’s eventual realization of the true capacity for human evil is a turning point in the novel, his innate morality and virtue promote a softer sense of hope, ultimately driving the Man’s will to live. Although the commodity of the road can promote a cynical view of human nature, the man and the boy come to represent rare goodness. The road is the commodity that gives the Man and the Boy bearing, what gives them reason, what affords them the open door for motivation to survive; they should continue navigating the road. After all, it is the life-driving source in a world squashed and obliterated. At last, the going on itself is reason enough to go on. Notwithstanding when the man eventually bites the dust, he surrenders his prior arrangement to kill his son so as not to send him into the danger alone. Instead he selects to pass on the “fire,” and he encourages his child to continue going south and to stay as one of the “good guys” – the last people to drive forward against ruthlessness (Hicks 146). In a world stripped of civilization, ripe with cannibalism and murder, the subtle symbolism of the road traveled suggests that the will to live overrides questions of morality or respectability. Considering this, the father’s steady defiance of savagery even in his last moments has significance; his demonstrations depict the last gasp of human determination.