The Last Hope to Survive

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an incredible novel that keeps the reader in tension  the last scene of the plot and compels everyone to plunge into a cruel and unjust world of reality and imagination based on constant human sufferings and intentions to survive. The main characters make considerable efforts to remain alive even if it seems that there is no chance to live one more day, as danger and death follow them everywhere. Both a father and his little son try to overcome any difficulty they encounter during their eternal life’s journey to avoid death, which is always ahead of them. Thus, the chosen road is the only direct way to another life, but a child is a driving father’s force that makes a man struggle with the surrounding world and the environment to survive; therefore, the father does not give up to the end of life for the sake of his son’s survival.

Being focused on the child’s wellbeing, paternal love has neither boundaries nor limitations as it exists deep in the father’s heart. In the novel The Road, McCarthy demonstrates unique relationships between a father and his son, who cannot imagine their life without each other. The protagonist understands that a boy is his hidden incentive and a single hope for a better future, because nothing can be more important than his precious descendant. At one point the father says: “If you died I would want to die too” (McCarthy). It is evident that he loves his kid and always risks finding a new, safer shelter for some period; he knows for sure that the threat hunts them either in the woods or on the endless road. The father realizes that life does not have any sense without his dear minor and recollects his wife’s words, “the boy was all that stood between him and death” (McCarthy). In other words, the protagonist’s thirst for survival is connected with the love to his little son. Certainly, the man never forgets that he will die one day, and his cough with blood is a precise reminder that he does not have much time to teach his boy how to live. He expects his own death anytime, but still never really stops searching for a new life for his son, unlike his wife, who has committed a suicide. In contrast to the child’s mother, the dad preserves his son from rape, cannibalism, and murder, despite the fact he understands that it is impossible to protect the child from the existing civilization’s destructive and degradation processes. However, the man accepts suicide just in case of a lack of the chance for a kid to survive being either raped or relentlessly killed by someone else; therefore, he constantly gives his son a pistol when he needs to be on a potentially unsafe territory.


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Inner fears rein over the father’s mind, but he rejects them and demonstrates the strength and vastness of his love while trying to protect his single child. The author shows that the parent is a clever man with kind features of character indeed as he does not want to kill anyone for food or a safe shelter. The reader notices that he has no malice and just hurts one man, who attacks his son, as well as the thief that steals their cart with all the necessary things to survive. In fact, the father resembles a beast, which is ready to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his/her child even not taking into account that the strengths are not equal. Although he is just an ordinary man, he cannot imagine that the life of his child will be too short and swears protect his son for as long as he lives. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that the child encourages his dad to find new ways to survive; his child often asks: “are we going to die?”, and this phrase pushes the man to come up with yet another safer plan to survive (McCarthy). Moreover, these words make the father become more vigilant and careful as death constantly haunts them, waiting for any human mistake from their side. Thus, the man never gives up, hides his deadly disease and even manages to inspire his son, by managing constantly to persuade him that they will not die soon, and one day if God accepts their souls.

God is an integral part of the story as He possesses the past, present, and future, keeping all human secrets together and is able to reveal His mercy towards the main characters to help them get by. The father values life and every single moment of a new day as the boy is his everything. However, at times, the man speaks to God and says: “Will I see you at last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul?… Oh God” (McCarthy). He merely whispers because of a boundless despair and the deadlock that draw out their life’s journey, which becomes more and more dangerous at night and at noon. In such a way, the man doubts the God’s existence as He seems to forget to protect the father and his son and compels to suffer for such a long period of their short life. The father denies God’s presence and claims: “There is no God and we are his prophets” (McCarthy). On the other hand, the man perceives his son as a warrant and treats the child as the highest personality above all other people that exist on the Earth. He believes in the child’s power based on kindness, which the author calls fire, as his innocent heart has so much good to warm up other poor and miserable people that also need support and shelter to survive in severe weather conditions.

Nature makes the main characters’ journey too extreme, but it also compels them to search for a new, safe shelter either in the woods or in old, empty houses veering off the road. The father and his son don’t lose any opportunity to survive as they make daily attempts to use the remaining natural resources and all possible trashed objects for life. Undoubtedly, the nature is relentless towards the travelers, who are forced to struggle with the unnatural human behavior including cannibals that possess neither moral nor spiritual values, killing other people to eat. The world of nature is as cruel as the world of people that abandon the existing moral principles just to remain alive, because survival is the only acceptable option for them even if it is necessary to kill anyone in their way, including the child. However, in contrast to others, the father and the son do not follow the same malicious way of survival to become murders and reject the idea to eat adults or children. Undoubtedly, the nature is also violent and has some similar human features as it can kill the protagonists any time. It suggests nothing more comfortable and safe than endless silence, darkness, rain, and cold air covered with a dreadful ash, as one of the first indications of death. Even the woods do not contain any eatable plants to satisfy their hunger, which hour by hour takes away a hard life of the father and a short life of an innocent child. Gradually, both slowly starve, and the man starts losing his last hope to stay alive; thus, the author indicates: “death was finally upon them” (McCarthy).

Nevertheless, dreams become real and come true when the father is lucky to find a bunker. It seems that God supports the man and the child and wants to make their life longer, even though the father’s end is too close. Fortunately, they discover that the bunker is full of delicious food and contains all the necessary supplies and useful items to survive. In this case, McCarthy describes preserved pears and peaches as a miracle, since food could give them strengths to continue traveling to the south. It is unbelievable, but this place has even more than they could predict to live for some period conveniently and safely. One of the most incredible things of this episode is that the boy has an irresistible desire to thank those people, who have prepared this food, tools, and clothes before. The child says: “Dear people, thank you for all this food and stuff…We are sorry that you did not get to eat it and we hope that you are safe in heaven with God” (McCarthy). His words sound like a prayer of a holy person. However, the father realizes that the bunker is dangerous as well, because everyone can find this place even if the man tries to hide their obvious location using a mattress and putting it above the latch door. Moreover, the father creates fake bullets making them out of wood as he wants the pistol to look like it is completely loaded. It is evident that the bunker is a new kind of hope for both, even though the father knows that it will not last eternally. Certainly, the story “establishes hope where we always expect to find it: within the structure of familial relationships” (Zibrak 103). Nevertheless, such enthusiasm and many father’s inventions clearly demonstrate his primary goal of saving his son; the child’s kindness and innocent beliefs also contribute to a fight against the cruel reality and injustice of the surrounding world.

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In conclusion, the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy represents a long life’s journey of the father and his son, while trying to find a large number of all possible methods and approaches to survive. Life and death are always close to each other, but the child is the one who compels his father to fight with reality based on human cruelty, severe weather conditions, and God’s indifference as only the father’s love to his son and the childish kindness help them avoid death on the road. Undoubtedly, the parental love is an essential factor that drives the father to protect his dear son up till the last breath of his poor life.

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