Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview. Instead of a book review, this will be thematic book discussion.
The Road is a novel by Cormac McCarthy, published in 2006. I wrote a film review of The Road a while ago after reading the book, which you can click here to read.
The Road is clearly a Dystopian novel. It is set in America, following a worldwide catastrophe which has wiped out all pre-existing forms of society. The environment has been destroyed. Finding food, water, and shelter is a constant hardship. There is both physical degeneration of the earth, and moral degeneration of humanity, as violent, cannibalistic gangs have sprung up to prey on weaker humans for survival. Furthermore, Dystopian literature often focuses on horrible, unimaginable places worse than the author’s own and highlights the plight of an individual and their attempt to survive in such a place. These genre conventions are evident in The Road, as the novel follows the plight of The Man and The Boy to travel through a harsh, oppressive landscape overrun by damage, decay, and waste in the hope of finding a safe haven at the coast.
The Road can also be considered post-apocalyptic literature, a genre similar to the Dystopian. The Road is set after an apocalyptic, catastrophic event that has destroyed the world. Much of the novel is concerned with detailing this new, frightening, post-apocalyptic world and how survival is even possible in such a place. Furthermore, the function of post-apocalyptic literature is to act as a warning for current readers and to encourage them to take preventative action now to avoid disasters in the future. For example, environmentalists often cite The Road as a warning about what will happen if the environment is not cared for and protected. Others cite The Road as a warning about the collapse of consumerist culture and materialism, as much of the waste littering America is from material luxuries enjoyed by previous societies.
In the midst of all this darkness, decay, and degeneration, it seems impossible that The Road could be considered Utopian in any way. However, The Road could be considered Utopian because it contains hope. Whilst the harsh landscapes and the hardships of life are present in the novel, they are never the central focus. Instead, the emphasis remains on The Man and The Boy, and The Man’s love, care, and protection of The Boy, his son. The Man also continuously encourages The Boy to make moral choices. Key examples of this are The Man’s refusal to engage in cannibalism and The Boy’s refusal to steal from others, even though there is no-one to punish them anymore. Thus, this enduring morality of The Man and The Boy can considered hopeful.
Like The Time Machine, the final decision on whether The Road is a somewhat hopeful, Utopian narrative, or a dark and depressing Dystopian novel is left for the reader to decide.
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Have you read this book? What did you think?
This post was last updated in January 2020.