Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Road By Cormac McCarthy (Spoiler Alert)

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a tale of a son and his father, neither of which are named, and their trek through a post-apocalyptic North America. Their goal is to reach the southern coast because the father believes it will be warmer than the almost inhabitable north and he believes that there will be more food available there. They must also survive horrible conditions and confrontations with cannibals. Most humans still living have turned to cannibalism to survive, as a result of this, the father must protect his son from anyone they come in contact with. This novel is very very VERY graphic. In fact, the director of the movie into which the novel is made (featuring Vigo Mortenson) left out several scenes at the request of McCarthy because of their graphic nature. One such scene in the novel that is not in the film is a scene in which a newborn infant (meaning hours old infant) is roasted on a fire. Along their journey the father and son find scraps of food, clothing, and other materials they use to scrape by. The most important of the items they carry however is the gun that has 2 bullets in it. One bullet for the son, and one bullet for the father in the event that they cannot escape cannibals who literally cook people alive. The father uses one bullet on a man who threatens their survival, and instructs the boy to kill himself if he is caught, the father can not bear the thought of his son being tortured by cannibals. Throughout the novel we find out that the mother committed suicide shortly after the unknown cataclysmic event, something the father can not forgive her for doing. About halfway through this novel we find out that the father has begun spitting up blood and is dying, something he refuses to tell his son, instead he continues to protect his son to the best of his abilities and to teach him how to survive without him. The father and son do eventually reach the sea through much trial, but they are disappointed to discover that there is no surplus of food like they had expected and the weather is just as inhabitable as where they had come from originally. Eventually the father does die of his illness, but before this he tells his son that he will always be with him through the boys imagination After three days of the son sitting over his father's corpse, he meets a man with a family who offers to take the boy in with his family and protect him. The boy leaves with this seemingly nice family after covering his father with a blanket, a crude burial.

Questions:

Throughout the novel the boy and his son refer to themselves as the "Good Guys," and they refer to the cannibals as the "Bad Guys." There are many instances in history (recent history too not just medieval) where people resort to, in times of life or death, cannibalizing their dead companions. Do you, on a survival level, think that cannibalism is indicative of "Bad Guys?" What about on a moral level?

As stated earlier the father never forgives his wife/mother of the son for killing herself, however he keeps the gun so he can kill his son if the time arose. There are several times throughout the novel where the son and father are in danger of being tortured, killed, and eaten. (A) Would you, put in the situation of the father have killed yourself and your son instead of travelling hundreds of miles without the knowledge of whether or not your circumstances would improve? (B) If you knew that they would not improve would your answer to (A) change?

9 comments:

Kaitlyn S. 13-14 said...

1. I believe that on a survival level, sometimes you have to do what you have to do but you'll have to live with the consequences. In a time like that, it's pretty much a 'you or them' situation. If you can live with the guilt of having resorted to that kind of tactic then I guess that's what happens. I don't think it's really a "bad guy" type of thing. When the world is post-apocalyptic, the rules change in order to survive.

Morally I don't think it's anywhere near being right. It's incredibly horrible to think people are able to do so even when they aren't trying to survive. For me personally, I would rather starve than do that.

What's morally right changes with the circumstances and if this world was post-apocalyptic, I'm sure people would be wasting their time on what was right. It sounds like earth would reverted to its more primal ways.

2.
A: I would not kill me and my son without at least trying to survive and seeing what's out there. If there's some chance at surviving, I would take it.
B: I still don't think I would change my answer. I would probably try to hold on as long as possible. I also wouldn't be able to kill my son.

Megan L.11-12 said...

I agree with you Kaitlyn, it's not a matter of "Bad Guys" or "Good Guys," in this context I think if someone were dead to begin with it is morally right but these people were killing others in order to survive which I could not myself live with.

Although on number 2, I think I would kill my son and myself if I knew the circumstances wouldn't improve just because once I died I don't know what would happen to him and although I would hope he would make it, there's no guarantee that he wouldn't be killed or tortured which is something that I wouldn't be able to live with.

Erika B 13-14 said...

1. I agree with both of you. While I never in my life would ever resort to cannibalism, I can see how, on a survival level, cannibalism may be needed in order to survive. As you both said, it's not really a "Bad Guys" type thing. When people are starving, they will try whatever they can to survive. It's just human nature to do that, as inhumane as cannibalism may be.

On a moral level, this would never be allowed. I believe this is where I stand on the situation. While I obviously have never been put in this scenario, I'm pretty certain I would rather starve to death than partake in cannibalism. I'm sure almost no one is thinking of morals though during a time of crisis.

Dana D 11-12 said...

1. I don't see anything wrong with eating people as long as they died from other causes. Especially if it is your only hope of staying alive. The other person is already dead so there is no more hope for them. Why waste the body.

2. I would do my best to keep myself and my child alive. But if I knew for absolutely certain that our situation wouldn't ever improve I would definitely consider killing both of us to avoid any further pain.

Jacob B 11-12 said...

I believe that in times like those people do what they have to do to survive even if it means eating other people. I do not believe that they should be considered the "bad guys" just for trying to survive.

Megan L.11-12 said...

Dana I love you! ahaha the way you put that just made my heart explode with laughter. But in all seriousness I agree with you. It's about survival and they're already dead.

Erika, I agree that no one is really thinking morally in life and death post apocalyptic situations but i would cannibalize, as long as they were already dead.

Justin B. 11-12 said...

I think it sounds more like the father was making a clear distinction for his son in the case that the father was killed he did not want his son to be doing something he viewed as wrong (cannibalism) so he reinforced that the cannibals were the "bad guys" so hopefully his son would not become one if the father was killed.

As for part 2 of the question I think that I would go ahead and travel because if you think about it, what would you have to lose by traveling that you are not already in danger of losing? If I knew that the "grass would not be greener" so to speak I would definitely not commit suicide as that is morally wrong. I would most likely just go with the flow for the rest of my (probably short) life.

P.S Skynet, 'nuff said
P.P.S I wonder what happened to the military...

Megan L.11-12 said...

I understand his distinction and there is also another side the "Good Guy" and "Bad Guy" theme, which is that these people aren't just eating already dead people, they're killing people in order to eat them, which obviously nobody thinks is right.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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