Deconstructing the Road – Part 5

You thought I forgot about this series, didn’t ya?

Ha! You’re not that lucky…

For those of you dropping in, this is the 5th part of my “deconstruction” review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You can get caught up on my thoughts with part one, two, three, and four.

The Story

When last we left the man and boy traveling through wasteland America, the boy had narrowly escaped some nefarious end. Saved by his father, the boy questions their humanity and the father pledges he will kill anyone who dares to touch the boy.

While some may think that is, ahem, touching (I actually thought so the first time I read it) I now see just how crazy the father is. But can you blame him given the circumstances?

But I digress. Back to the story…

downloadAfter their altercation with the roving cannibals, father and son make their way down to a seemingly deserted city. They rummage through things, hear a dog barking in the distance, and the feel of eyes on them leaves the two jumpy, especially the father.

And they are starving. In the town, they search and search for food but there is next to nothing edible. Sleeping in a car that night, their plight seems endless and dire. The next morning they move on. Towards the end of the day, the boy sees someone – another boy. In an instant, the new child flees and the boy runs to catch up. Hope blossoms. The father shreds that hope in a second, telling the boy they can’t trust anyone. Starving and with little food, they move on.

The Analysis

Well, my analysis, at least.

In this section, the boy starts to become his own person. He’s not just a lump of walking flesh the father must protect. His personality comes through in his reactions and dialogue. He’s concerned about the other boy he saw and the dog he hears. The boy yearns for human contact other than his father’s, but the father refuses to seek out the other refugees they can sense around them.

And the father continues to build a mythology around the boy. At the beginning of this section, with most of their belongs lost, the father whittled a flute for the boy to play with as they walk. The boy makes music and the father stops to watch. McCarthy describes the boy like this:

He was lost in concentration. The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves. ~ From The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It amazes me how seamlessly and effortlessly the author builds a history for the boy. This passage is also a wonderful insight into how the father sees the boy’s naiveté and ultimately, his promised transformation. Though it isn’t explicitly said, after reading the passage above, I naturally thought of when the boy would come to realize all the players had been carried off by wolves. Just what would he become then?

I also thought the dialogue in this section was more revealing, especially for the boy. He argues with his father, and his father can only repeat what he knows and deny his son the answers he needs.

The boy was pulling at his coat.

Papa, he said.


I’m afraid for that little boy.

I know. But he’ll be all right.

We should go get him, Papa. We could get him and take him with us. We could take him and we could take the dog. The dog could catch something to eat.

We cant.

And I’d give that little boy half of my food.

Stop it. We cant.

He was crying again. What about the little boy? he sobbed. What about the little boy?

The boy is so willing to sacrifice himself for others, but his father is only willing to sacrifice for his son.

Another heart-breaking section. Gird yourself, my friends, the next section is worse.

Until next time, check out my latest review at

3 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Road – Part 5

  1. Excellent. I see now why this book is considered so relentlessly bleak, and you say it gets worse? I think I’m going to have to watch Threads to cheer myself up a bit beforehand!

    1. I know! Me, too. Well, maybe not Threads (not sure what that is, but will check it out), but something much happier. You know, I’m beginning to wonder why I consider this one of my favorite books… 😮

      1. I was being sarcastic. Threads is actually one of the bleakest films you will ever watch. A made-for-TV production in the 1980s, it was about the build up and aftermath of a nuclear war, focusing on the city of Sheffield and those that survive it.

        This is the moment of the attack and it just gets worse from here:

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