Why do you think McCarthy has chosen not to give his characters names? How do the generic labels of “the man” and “the boy” affect the way you /readers relate to them? While reading The Road, a novel written by Cormac McCarthy, I was jerked from the warmth, comfort, and safety of my home and thrown into a cold, dark, and desolate world, walking alongside “the man” and “the boy”. McCarthy composes his work so graphically that readers are drawn right into the story.
I believe Cormac McCarthy wanted the figures in this book to be universal, so that the reader could imagine him/her self as “the boy” or “the man” at any given moment, and to be able to feel as they do.
To do this McCarthy did not designate the characters in his book with names, and because of this, I was able to connect with “the man” and “the boy” on a personal level and envision myself uniting with them in their chilling journey. As the reader, I was deeply overwhelmed with many mixed emotions such as compassion, sadness, happiness, disgust, remorse, and fear.
I have pity for the characters in the book The Road, because “the man” and “the boy” have to pass day to day struggling to survive in a frigid bleak world where food is scarce “They squatted in the road and ate rice and cold beans they’d cooked days ago. ” “Already beginning to ferment. ”(McCarthy 29). The landscape is blackened, and mankind is almost extinct “The mummied dead everywhere. ”(McCarthy 24). As I read on I noticed myself connecting more deeply with the characters.
When the boy’s mother takes her own life, I was deeply saddened and my heart broke for “the boy” simply because his mom, someone he cherished and loved so much, had given up on hope and faith and deserted him. I just wanted to take hold of the child and comfort him even though at this moment he has no clue his mother has left. I also felt sorry for “the man”, one, because he has to tell his child where his mother is “For the love of God woman. What am I to tell him? ” (McCarthy 58), and two, because his love and best friend was in such despair and there was nothing he could do to impel her to stay.
As a mother, in some ways, I also felt sorry for the mother in this book, because most women dream of the day she will have a child of her own to love, care for, and teach, but this mother had to give birth to her son after the great catastrophe, and instead of bringing her tears of happiness, it brought tears of sorrow. She now knows that she has to raise her son in this dark and barley habitable world and that it will be a constant struggle to survive. “My heart was ripped out of me the night he was born…” (McCarthy 57).
On the other hand though, I am also disgusted with the mother for the one reason that she gave up, and now her family, especially her child, has to suffer the consequences due to her actions, but again, given that I put myself in her situation, would I do the same thing? While reading I also felt deep sadness in many parts, for one instance, when “the man” dies, at this point in the book I had tears streaming down my face. “He slept close to his father that night and held him but when he woke in the morning his father was cold and stiff. ” “He sat there a long time weeping… (McCarthy 281). “He knelt beside his father held his cold hand and said his name over and over again. ”(McCarthy 281). At one part in the book, remorse, disgust, sadness, and compassion were the stirred emotions that hit me all t once. It was the time when a thief robs “the boy” while he is asleep on the beach. When “the boy” was first robbed I was angry and disgusted with the thief who had robbed a sleeping innocent child, I could never see myself doing this especially in a situation where food is hard to come by and staying warm is almost impossible!
When they finally catch up with the thief “the man” points the gun at him and threatens to shoot him. “The boy” is pleading with his father not to kill the thief. “The man” says to the thief “Take your clothes off. ”(McCarthy 256). “Take them off every goddamn stitch. ” (McCarthy 256). Eventually the thief is completely naked, “the boy” and the thief are begging “the man” not to do this, but the man looks at the thief and says “You didn’t mind doing it to us. ”(McCarthy 257). Now I feel that the thief is getting what he deserves.
When they leave the thief standing in the road “the boy” becomes extremely upset, “And They set out along south with the boy crying and looking back at the nude and saltlike creature standing there in the road shivering and hugging himself. ” “Oh Papa, he sobbed. ”(McCarthy 258). I am now starting to feel the compassion the boy has towards the thief “He was hungry, Papa. ” “He’s going to die. ”(McCarthy 259). They finally take the thief’s clothes back and pile them in the middle of the road and I am glad of this.
Later as they were lying down at camp I believe the man was starting to feel guilty, and he spoke “I wasnt going to kill him, he said. ” “But the boy didnt answer. ” “They rolled themselves in the blankets and lay there in the dark. ” “He could tell the boy was awake and after a while the boy said: but we did kill him. ”(McCarthy 260). When “the boy” made this comment I felt deep remorse and disgust in myself for having felt so harshly toward the thief in the beginning.
I also felt happiness and relief in this story when “the man” and “the boy” found the underground shelter behind the house in the field, I felt as if I was there with them discovering the grand riches this den held! “Oh my God, he whispered. ” “Oh my God. ” “What is it Papa? ” “Come down. ” “Oh my God. ” “Come down. ” (McCarthy138). “Crate upon crate of canned goods. ” “Tomatoes, peaches, beans, apricots. ” “Canned hams. ” “Corned beef. ” “Hundreds of gallons of water in ten gallon plastic jerry jugs. ”(McCarthy 138).
In this underground hideaway was everything they needed to survive. I was so overwhelmed with joy and comfort that I forgot for a moment about the cruel cold world above. During many portions of this novel I experienced also many sensations of fear. The most prominent passage is where “the man” and “the boy” come across a house and both are vulnerable due to fatigue and starvation. “They’d had no food and little sleep in five days and in this condition on the outskirts of a small town they came upon a once grand house sited on a rise above the road”(McCarthy 105).
As they start toward the house “the boy” becomes frightened and “the man” or father tries to reassure him that everything is okay and that they have to go inside. At this point I am feeling a little uneasy about the two entering the house. As they cross the porch “the boy” is trying to convince his father not to go inside, agreeing with the boy I imagine myself in his shoes and I am pleading for “the man” not to enter. “The man” is determined and tells the boy “We’ve got to find something to eat. ” “We have no choice. ”(McCarthy 106).
When inside the home “the boy hung on to his hand. ” “He was terrified. ” (McCarthy 107). While investigating the house they come across a door in a room next to the kitchen that might have been considered a pantry at one time. “In the floor of this room was a door or hatch and it was locked with a large padlock made of stacked steel plates. ”(McCarthy 108). “The boy” again tries to plead with his father to leave, and I again right along with him, but now my tension and curiosity is starting to rise a bit, wondering what is underneath this door. The man” believes there is a significant reason for this door being locked, so he makes his way to the tool shed “half dragging the child and went sorting through tools” (McCarthy 109). He retrieves a shovel, heads back into the house, and pry’s the door open. Now I am holding my breath just waiting for the outcome, good or bad, I do not know, but I am very anxious. “He started down he rough wooden steps. He ducked his head and then flicked the lighter…” (McCarthy 110).
“Coldness and Damp. ” “An ungodly stench. ” (McCarthy 110). What came next caught me completely off guard! Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. ” “On the mattress lay a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. ” “The smell was hideous. ” “Jesus, he whispered. ”(McCarthy 110). Now I am in a complete state of shock, fear, and disgust. Unbelievable! All at once I am feeling the fear and shock of “the man”, “the boy”, and the mangled victims that have been terrorized, probably raped, eaten or at least half dismembered and eaten by the wicked and ruthless barbarians! Then one by one they turned and blinked in the pitiful light. ” “Help us, they whispered. ” “Please help us. ”(McCarthy 110). My heart is now beginning to race. When they finally reach the top of this grave, “He shoved the boy through the hatch and sent him sprawling. ” “He stood and got hold of the door and swung it over and let it slam down and he turned to grab the boy but the boy had gotten up and was doing his little dance of terror. ”(McCarthy 111).
As if this horrific and vivid image engraved in my head was not enough, McCarthy immediately throws me into a sheer state of terror and panic. “… the boy was pointing out the window and when he looked he went cold all over. ” “Coming across the field toward the house were four bearded men and two women. ” “He grabbed the boy by the hand. ” “Christ, he said. ” “Run. ” “Run. ” I had to literally set the book aside, go outdoors, calm down, and smoke a cigarette to calm my nerves. Finally my heart rate returned to normal and I picked up the book and continued to read.
After I completed this part in the story and discovered that “the man” and “the boy” had escaped I got up checked on my children to reassure myself that they were asleep safe and warm in their bed, I quickly ran back through the house like a child with a sense of fear that something was going to jump out and grab me at any moment, I jumped in the bed got as close to my husband as possible and eventually drifted off to sleep. When I finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I was astonished at how deep I was able to connect with the characters and the fact that this book touched me as deeply as it did.
It also made me think what if…? In reality if this were to happen would I have the courage and strength of “the man” and “the boy” or would I be like the mother as McCarthy states it “ …a faithless slut…” (57), who has taken death as a new lover. Over all I personally believe that this novel was absolutely fantastic, even though I had nightmares for a few nights after I had completed the book. This just goes to show what a great writer McCarthy is, he touches his readers so deeply they even dream about his work. I would defiantly pick up this book and read it again just for fun.