“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a novel filled with sacrifices that affect both of the main characters. The man, in particular, forfeits many of the few luxuries left in life due to his son, The boy. The man deliberately gives up basic human rights such as resources like food and water, as well as the ultimate sacrifice, his life. He does all this so that his boy might have the tiniest chance at surviving and having a better life. The man’s true nature, good values, and will to push on for his son even in the most trying of times reveals a theme relatable to all of mankind: the struggle between pushing for good and resisting evil.

Throughout the story, the man and boy are often on the brink of death due to starvation. The man, of course, must ration the food in a way so he and the boy are able to live. This usually ends up with both of them near death. However, it seems that whenever they are closest to death, something is always found to pull them through just a bit longer. For example, the man finds a bunker filled with food and amenities, but instead of being overjoyed, he says, “He’d been ready to die and now he wasn’t going to and he had to think about that.” This excerpt reveals to he reader that the man has been ready for death, but he and the boy keep finding reasons to have hope about what the future holds. Finding this bunker was after five days without shelter or food. Hope was lost for both characters, But yet again shelter, safety, and food is what is being related to the overall happiness of both characters. This shows the reader that the desire to do good is often the characters’ motivation to sacrifice their own well being and wishes for that of others.

Commonly known as the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down your life for another is arguably the most noble way to die and shows just how much one loves another. The man shows this towards the end of the book when he covers the boy from the arrows being shot at them. The man ends up taking an arrow to the leg, sealing his fate. During a heartbreaking dialogue between father and son, the father says, “I know, I’m sorry. You have my whole heart. You always did. You’re the best guy. You always were. If I’m not here you can still talk to me. You can still talk to me and I’ll talk to you. You’ll see.” Throughout the story, the man talks of how much he wants to die, but when the time actually comes, he clearly wishes to stay with his son on Earth. This quote absolutely shuts down the argument that the man truly wanted to die all along. That his death was a welcome occurrence. What parent would want to leave their child all alone in a world like the one they live in? The man was living for his child. So long as the boy was still alive, the man was going to be by his side. So when the man was dying, he leaves behind the one thing that gave his life any meaning whatsoever. But it is through this ultimate sacrifice, the true goodness in the man’s heart is shown.

The theme of The Road is something that is debatable and quite fluid when it comes to deciding what exactly McCarthy was most prominently trying to convey. The one thing that sticks out to most, however, is the struggle between good and evil. Frequently in the novel, the boy asks, “Are we the good guys?” (Or something of that nature) to which the man replies, “Yes, we carry the torch.” The boy’s quote shows that he just wants to be a good person. The torch the father speaks of represents goodness and civility. This is in stark contrast with the evil people of the new world who use war and cannibalism to survive. The metaphorical torch is passed on, as the boy pushes on without his father. The ending concludes with the boy seeing brook trout (the only animal we’ve seen yet). This shows a small light at the end of the tunnel and how goodness will triumph in the face of evil no matter the circumstances.

To conclude, The Road is a novel with an abundance of sacrifices made by the people whose lives it is about. From something as small as a meal to one’s life, the man undoubtedly sacrifices himself for a soul reason: the boy. The boy is his one reason to go on in a world full of trials and tribulations. The goodness seen in the man’s heart is something that will be carried on in the boy for as long as he may live.       

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"The Road" By Cormac McCarthy. (2021, Jun 30). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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