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Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Book Review: The Road

 Austin, Ethan and I's college small group leader and friend, loaned me a book to read this weekend
on my road trip to Oklahoma this weekend (Thanks Austin!). While in the car on Friday with Ethan's family on the way to see his sister and brother-in-law (awesome weekend, P.S.), I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy in its entirety in one sitting. 

http://frontier.cincinnati.com/blogs/litchick/uploaded_images/cormac-770484.jpg
The Road is a bleak, dismal novel. A father and son are traveling south on a road in a world utterly destroyed by a cataclysmic event that occurred years prior to the novel's setting, possibly caused by nuclear warfare. The plot consists of a few basic activities: walk, forage, starve, rain, sleep, starve, and walk some more. The whole world has been reduced to ash and gray snow; the only sustenance that remains are canned goods hidden away in long-abandoned homes. The narrative is simple; it is as if the father and son do not have enough energy to utter more words than the practical and essential.

They looked at each other.
One more.
I dont want you to get sick.
I wont get sick.
You havent eaten in a long time.
I know.
Okay. (p.141)

In this world, negative contractions are laid bare without their apostrophe's, and quotation marks are extinct. I wonder if the apocalypse burned all of the punctuation, or if this style is consistent in McCarthy's novels? 

One theme that particularly stood out was the reference to the father and son "carrying the fire".

We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we're the good guys.
Yes.
And we're carrying the fire.
And we're carrying the fire, yes.
Okay.
(p.128)

-and-

You cant. You have to carry the fire.
I dont know how to.
Yes you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I dont know where it is.
Yes you do. It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it.
(p.278)

What is McCarthy's meaning? At first, I thought it meant that the young boy was a symbol of the continuation of the human race. After finishing the whole novel, I'm more inclined to think that "carrying the fire" refers to never losing hope. If you always carry hope, you will survive. I like this interpretation, it creates a positive note in one very depressing book.

Another interpretation that I lingered on is how the words of the father to his child are so similar to the words of Jesus to His disciples. I have yet to settle on how that fits into the meaning of the book, but I am still trying to figure it all out. Also, the child, born into the post apocalyptic world has the compassion that seems to have gone extinct in the world. His actions and emotions seem to allude to Jesus. I am still lost as to how to puzzle the book together into a meaning, but I can kind of make out how the pieces fit.

The Road also introduced some vocabulary unfamiliar to me. McCarthy must be a walking dictionary. Here are a few examples:
Gryke (p.11) - a deep cleft in a bare limestone rock surface.
Gambreled (p.17) - A grambrel is a two-sided roof, usually symmetric, with two slopes on each side.
Laved (p.38) - to wash or flow against.
Soffits (p.106) - the exposed undersides of any overhead component of a building.
Gelid (p.136) - Very cold; icy.
Bivouack[ed] (p. 168) - temporary encampment under little or no shelter
over and out.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

McCarthy usually leaves out extenuous punctuation. Check out No Country For Old Men, way better than the movie.