Some time after an [[UnspecifiedApocalypse unspecified extinction-level global cataclysm]], ''The Road'' follows two survivors--a man and his young son--who journey south through the ashes of the former USA in the hope of finding enough food to avoid starving to death over the coming winter in a place warm enough that they won't die of exposure either. They have only the rags on their backs, a cart of scavenged food, [[BetterToDieThanBeKilled a gun with two bullets]], and one another. As they travel, they (and the reader) bear witness to a dead world where nothing grows, nothing lives, and the sun hasn't been seen in years. "Nothing lives" but refugees like them, wandering the country in search of food... and ever-hungry gangs of cannibals that stalk the roads.

''The Road'' was published by Creator/{{Cormac McCarthy}} in 2006. It garnered critical praise in America and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. The book is notable for a [[BeigeProse stark, minimalist style]] interspersed with occasional [[PurpleProse purple metaphors]]. The writing is idiomatic to say the least, eschewing most punctuation (including quotes) and occasionally including one-sentence chapters of philosophical musing.

Depending on whom you ask, ''The Road'' is either a melancholic, yet stirringly beautiful story about [[RousseauWasRight the goodness of humanity in a hopeless world]], or a hellish nightmare [[DarknessInducedAudienceApathy so dark that no sane person would read it]]. Either way, never point out that this book, despite its premise, is not to be found in the [[SciFiGhetto science fiction section of the bookstore]]: [=McCarthy=] fans will get upset at the implication that High Literature would be grouped with Genre Fiction, and Genre fans will be upset because ''The Road'' is pretty tame when compared to the Post-Apocalyptic genre, as a whole.

Like most of [=McCarthy's=] books, it was optioned for a film, and TheFilmOfTheBook (Also called ''The Road'') was released on November 25, 2009. It was directed by John Hillcoat, the director of ''TheProposition'', starring Creator/ViggoMortensen and Creator/CharlizeTheron (in a minor role). The score was done by Music/NickCave and Warren Ellis (no, not ''that'' Creator/WarrenEllis).

See also ''Film/{{Threads}}''.

!!Tropes featured:


[[folder:Tropes provided by the original novel]]
* AfterTheEnd: One of the few such novels to actually make it look like mankind is on its way out. Not just scraping by, [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt but truly dying]].
* AntiHero: The Man, doing the best he can considering the world he lives in.
* ApocalypseAnarchy: The world has descended into chaos. It's the law of the jungle.
* ApocalypseHow: Debatable. We don't know how much of the world is dying, but the parts that are may potentially be [[ApocalypseHow/{{Class 4}} Class 4]]--biosphere extinction has already occurred and the affected areas are in the final stages of dying. Some scientists [=McCarthy=] knows have stated that the world the novel is set in is consistent with Earth after a meteor strike or the eruption of Yellowstone Caldera, or perhaps the aftermath of a nuclear war, both of which the world has dealt with and recovered from. But just because the world (and life in some form) would be able to recover from such a disaster doesn't mean that humanity, or even ''most'' other life would.
* ArcWords: The phrase "carrying the fire" is constantly repeated by the boy, doubling as a SurvivalMantra. The phrase also appeared in ''NoCountryForOldMen.''
* ArtisticLicenseBiology: In a world with dwindling food resources, the cannibals stay alive by maintaining human livestock. However, it'd be more energy-efficient to slaughter them all and preserve the meat than it would to slaughter them one at a time and use the meat to feed both themselves and the remaining livestock. Possibly justified in that there might not be enough salt or vinegar available, or they simply mightn't know that they can smoke it.
* BeardOfBarbarism: Averted and played straight. Averted by the father, whose unkempt beard is mentioned a few times (typically right before he has the chance to shave it off). Played straight when the two main characters stumbled upon the ghoulish larder of a small band of cannibals at one point. As they flee, they briefly glimpse the larder's owners, and the only adjective used to describe the men is "bearded."
* BeigeProse: Mixed with PurpleProse.
* BilingualBonus: The ship the protagonists find is called [[spoiler: the Bird of Hope.]]
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler: The man has died, but the boy finds a new, slightly more prosperous family to take care of him. Of course, they're still in a dying world.]]
* BornLucky: The man suspects this of his son--as much as anyone can be BornLucky AfterTheEnd, anyway. By all the available evidence, he's right.
* CallingTheOldManOut: The Boy to the Man, for [[spoiler:leaving the thief to die.]]
--> Do you want me to tell you a story?\\
Why not?\\
The boy looked at him and looked away.\\
Why not?\\
Those stories are not true.\\
They dont have to be true. They're stories.\\
[[spoiler:[[WhatTheHellHero Yes. But in the stories we're always helping people and we dont help people]].]]
* CannibalClan: Most of humanity have starved to the point where they eat other humans, and it's implied that they will eventually die from sickness or starvation, or cannibalize each other until no one is left.
* ChildrenAreInnocent: The Man tries as hard as he can to preserve The Boy's idealism in this world, telling him stories and urging him to "carry the fire". The questionable actions he takes out of pragmatism work against this.
* CrapsackWorld: Less a WorldHalfEmpty than a world almost completely drained. And how. The Road arguably features the most thoroughly Crapsack World in all of highbrow literature. The entire biosphere is deadľa frozen terrestrial corpse covered in lung-choking ash. Nightmarish cannibal degenerates, their starving prey, and occasional patches of fungus are the remains of life on earth [[spoiler: for most of the novel]]. In a flashback at the outset, two of the main characters debate whether killing themselves is the only moral decision under the circumstances. [[spoiler: The conclusion gives a glimmer of hope by revealing small pockets of life and humanity that may allow the biosphere to recover to a degree, but it also implies that the earth as we knew it is irrevocably lost.]] Interestingly, [=McCarthy=]'s vision of "life" amid total ecological ruin has been credited as so harrowing that it makes The Road a uniquely powerful demonstration of how everything we value depends on the environment, and thus one of the most important environmental works ever written.
* CreepyBasement: And how!
* DeathWorld
* DespairEventHorizon: It's arguable whether our heroes are teetering on the edge, or jumped off a long time ago. Either way, [[spoiler:the discovery of the cannibal larder]] hits them both ''hard''.
* DramaticGunCock: The man does this in particular for the audible effect, even though he knows the pistol is a double action.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:The mother, and the father still carries a gun with two bullets in case the urge becomes overwhelming for him too.]] Justified, given the situation.
* EatsBabies: The cannibals. At one point,the man and the boy see three men and a very pregnant woman. Three days after, they pass through a camp that has the remains of a beheaded, roasted infant on a spit.
* FlareGun: Used by the father to take out a person who was attacking him and his son with arrows.
* HappyFlashback: The man actively tries to discourage these. They just make him want to [[DrivenToSuicide end it]].
* HopeSpot: The father finds a still-stocked and untouched bomb shelter, giving them a short time with comfortable beds, food, and even showers. Since he knows others will find it as well, he doesn't stay long.
* ImAHumanitarian: The only way for most people to eat, now that the biosphere's dying out. The man and the boy are amongst the few survivors who ''don't'' indulge in this. [[spoiler: As well as the group that finds the Boy at the end.]]
* IncurableCoughOfDeath: We see early on that the man has one, adding an extra layer of urgency to their journey.
* InTheDoldrums: The CrapsackWorld might qualify.
* KickTheDog: When the father and son catch up [[spoiler: to the man who stole from them, the father engages in some DisproportionateRetribution, ordering him to strip naked and throw his belongings in their cart. This, in short, gave him a death sentence by hypothermia.]]
* MissingMom: The mother gave up hope and [[ParentalAbandonment left the family]].
* NamelessNarrative: No characters are named throughout the novel. Double subverted with an old tramp the man and his son meet at one point, who claims his name is Ely, before revealing it isn't, and that he doesn't want to tell them his real name.
* PapaWolf: The father.
* PetTheDog: A couple from [[spoiler:the scavengers who pick up the boy at the end of the book]], showing that they're safe and trustworthy people to be around. [[spoiler:They [[DueToTheDead cover the father with a blanket]] like they'd promised, and insist the boy keeps his gun when he tries to give it to them.]]
* PurpleProse: In some sections, usually during dream sequences or between settings, the narrator tends to wander off and wax philosophically for a page or two before snapping back to the plot at hand. Beige prose sprinkled with purple patches.
* RapeAsDrama: Alluded to as one of the many perils on the road (one of the nomadic groups keeps a pack of teenaged sex-slaves on dog collars)--not least because it's often the precursor to [[ImAHumanitarian something worse]].
* [[RealIsBrown Real Is Gray]]: Justified in that ash has blotted out the sun for years and most of Earth's flora and fauna are dead.
* RedHerring: [[spoiler: The final bullet is ultimately never used.]]
* RoadTripPlot: A decidedly grim one, traveling through the ashes AfterTheEnd.
* ScavengerWorld: A kingdom for proper boots.
* SceneryGorn: So very much. In this world, ashes fall like snow.
* SchmuckBait: Averted. The man finds a jar of preserved fruit in an abandoned house. It looks very nice, but "other people hadn't trusted it, and in the end, neither did he."
* ShootTheHostageTaker: The father does this to a baddie who holds his son hostage in the woods.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: There's a whole cottage industry that's sprung up around debating this question. As noted in the description, there's a group that believes the book is mind-shatteringly depressing. There's another group that believes ''The Road'' is, through all the death and misery, a chronicle of the strength and beauty of the human spirit.
* SorryThatImDying: [[spoiler: The man to the boy.]]
* SurvivalistStash: Our heroes benefit from several of these. The most spectacular example is detailed in HopeSpot, above.
* ThrowTheDogABone: The boy [[spoiler: loses his father, his only source of joy, comfort, peace of mind, and protection. Just as the story sets him up to travel the world as TheAloner, some scavengers who have been following them and claim to "carry the fire" appear... and by [[PetTheDog all the available evidence]], they're trustworthy. The two kids in their group look healthy, and best of all, not gnawed-upon.]].
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: Dates are never given, but there's no mention of technology that doesn't exist in the real world.
* UnspecifiedApocalypse: What happened to the world and how it happened is only mentioned in bits and pieces, not enough to come to a conclusion. The novel is more about the eventual fate of its two characters more so than the mystery of the past.
* WhatTheHellHero: The father forces the thief who stole their gear to strip at gunpoint, then leaves him helpless beside the road. He will almost assuredly die painfully as a result. The boy calls him on this.
* YankTheDogsChain: See HopeSpot, above. Also, [[spoiler:they eventually reach the coast. There's nothing for them there]].

[[folder:Tropes exclusively provided by the film adaptation]]
* ArcWords: "Why are you following us?" or some variant thereof by various characters.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: When the man and his son are surprised by the return of the cannibals and hide in the bathroom upstairs, the father, upon hearing one of them climbing the stairs, puts his gun against his son's forehead and prepares to use his last bullet to spare him the horror of being captured. Ultimately averted thanks to the prisoners breaking out who distract the cannibals long enough to allow them to make their escape.
* BloodFromTheMouth: One of the first signs that [[spoiler: the Man is dying.]]
* DeliberatelyMonochrome: The colors are bleached to give a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic scenery.
* DreamIntro: The film opens with the protagonist's dream of tender moments with his wife before the apocalypse.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: The first few scenes show very clearly that the man is dedicated to protecting the boy. In the first flashback, immediately after the first sign of trouble, the man begins filling the sinks and bathtubs with water, a very real tactic for handling emergencies, showing how he's the kind of man with the right stuff to survive in this setting.
* FanDisservice: Both the father and a random thief appear naked at certain points. Neither of which are particularly attractive as well as the fact that the thief is being forced to strip at gunpoint.
* {{Flashback}}: How Creator/CharlizeTheron is able to be in this movie.
* [[ItsAllAboutMe It's All About Me]]: The mother.
* NeverTrustATrailer: Charlize Theron is only in flashbacks.
* OnlySaneMan: Some see the mother as this, since she preferred to die rather than struggle in this ruined world.
* PetTheDog: Just like in the book, the father forces the thief to strip naked and plans to leave him behind like that, essentially dooming him. However, due to the son's pleas they go back to where they left him to give him back his clothes. Although he isn't there when they get there, they leave behind his clothes and a can of food.
* RagnarokProofing:
** [[SurvivalistStash The only intact bunker]] the pair find also happens to have the only functioning lights they come across... for a few seconds.
** Since it's about 10 years (more or less) AfterTheEnd, a lot of stuff has long since broken down.
** The house in the flashbacks, if you notice closely, gradually decays as time passes, from more-or-less pristine to a dilapidated shell of its former self. It also helps that some form of EMP shut down just about everything electronic from day one.
* RealIsBrown: Combined with relentless SceneryGorn like woah. Much of the movie was filmed in an abandoned strip-mine, which is about as close as you can get to a RealLife post-apocalyptic wasteland.
* ScaryBlackMan: Very much averted with the thief. Yeah, he holds a knife to the Boy, but he's just in such a miserable state that he's more pitiful than scary.
* SceneryDissonance: Type 1. The film contains some horrific things. Whether or not the washed-out, decaying landscape is beautiful or not can be debated.
* ScreamingBirth: When the mother goes into labor.
* ScreamsLikeALittleGirl: The boy.
* ShoutOut: The Lonely Planet New Zealand guidebook. Australia and New Zealand are set up as possible safe havens in numerous post-apocalyptic works, including ''On The Beach'' and ''The Chrysalids''. In addition, TheFilmOfTheBook ''TheLordOfTheRings'' was filmed there.
* ThousandYardStare: Ye Gods.
* ThrowTheDogABone: On top of [[spoiler: the boy finding a new family in the end like in the book, it's implied that life will go on. The boy finds a beetle in one late scene, and the credits feature sounds of birds and animals]].
* VomitIndiscretionShot: When the boy gets sick.
* WouldHurtAChild: As to be expected for the setting there are several people who would have no problem with hurting the boy if given the chance.