In 2006, prominent American novelist Cormac McCarthy published The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel which garnered critical praise in America and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. The book is notable for a stark, minimalist style interspersed with occasional 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 but stirringly beautiful story about the goodness of humanity in a hopeless world, or a hellish nightmare so dark that no sane person would read it. Or, it's just boring, repetitive, unpleasant, pretentious, and grammatically nonsensical. And if you enjoy breathing, never point out that this book, despite its premise, is not to be found in the 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.Set after an unspecified global disaster, The Road follows two survivors, a man and his young son, who journey south through the smoking ashes of the United States, toward what they hope is a less dangerous country somewhere near the East Coast. During their ordeal, the man and the boy have only the rags on their backs and a cart of scavenged food. And one another. As they travel, they (and the audience) bear witness to a dead world, where nothing moves but the ashes in the breeze, nothing grows, and the sun is blacked out by a layer of poisonous ash. The only living beings except for them are the starving bands of men that stalk the road.Like most of McCarthy's books, it was optioned for a film, and The Film of the BookThe Road was released on November 25, 2009. It was directed by John Hillcoat, the director of The Proposition, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron (in a minor role). The score was done by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (no, not thatWarren Ellis).
The original novel contains examples of:
After the End: One of the few such novels to actually make it look like mankind is on its way out. Not just scraping by, but dying.
Anti-Hero: The Man might count. Though considering the world he lives in its understandable.
Artistic License - Biology: It isn't widely known, but canned food is only safe to eat for five years. The man and his son should be at serious risk of contracting botulism by now.
Debateable. The older cans are, the more likely they are to be unsafe, but if the cans are intact and were properly processed in the first place, the food can be safe for much longer. The US military recently opened and tested provisions canned in the 1950's and found them to still be safe.
Rather than eat the food they find, the cannibals get a woman pregnant and give the food to her so the baby can grow, then eat the baby. Generously one might say that this is another sign that humanity has lost even a basic understanding of the world.
That's assuming they planned on eating the baby. It could have been a stillbirth, or died after birth.
There's also the question of what happened to the rats, roaches, and other small, fast-breeding animals that are more resistant to catastrophe than humans are. And the question of how the cannibals managed to avoid scurvy on a diet of nothing but human flesh. This is pointed out, as in the book, the teeth of the cannibals encountered are described as "claggy." A better way to put this is that their teeth are rotted and falling out. Add that to the general thinness and shakiness of those they encounter, this is suverted. Also, vitamins are possibly still around in sufficient number.
One that overlaps with Fridge Horror, depending on which way the author was going with it. At one point, the man and the boy stumble upon a cellarful of people being held captive by a band of cannibals. They are being kept alive and eaten one limb at a time. The cannibals evidently have enough spare food lying around to maintain such human livestock, which begs the question of why they need to resort to cannibalism... unless, as with farmers of other sorts of livestock, they just didn't care about possible taboos and wanted some of that sweet, sweet protein.
Take that a step further: What if the prisoners were being kept alive on a diet of other prisoners?
Beard of Barbarism: 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."
Cannibal Clan: 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.
Hope Spot: 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.
I'm a Humanitarian: 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. As well as the group that finds the Boy at the end.
Inferred Holocaust: Pretty much one of the reasons why the ending is so bittersweet. Even though the boy is in good hands, the biosphere is dead. No one is going to live long once what is left of food is eaten and the remaining humans have all cannibalized each other.
Kick the Dog: When the father and son catch up to the man who stole from them, the father engages in some Disproportionate Retribution, ordering him to strip naked and throw his belongings in their cart. This, in short, gave him a death sentence by hypothermia.
Nameless Narrative: 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.
Pet the Dog: A couple from the scavengers who pick up the boy at the end of the book, showing that they're safe and trustworthy people to be around. They 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.
Scenery Gorn: So very much. In this world, ashes fall like snow.
Schmuck Bait: 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."
Shrug of God: The author has offered a few possible explanations for the world-ending disaster, and said that he himself has no opinion on the subject. See also The Unreveal.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: 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.
Throw the Dog a Bone: The boy 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 The Aloner, some scavengers who have been following them and claim to "carry the fire" appear... and by all the available evidence, they're trustworthy. The two kids in their group look healthy, and best of all, not gnawed-upon..
The Unreveal: 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.
What the Hell, Hero?: 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 lampshades this.
Dueling Movies: In contest with The Book of Eli (2010). Both are post-apocalyptic movies about a man safeguarding something he holds dear. Both movies emphasize the aspects of reaching a destination, lying South or West.
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.
Real Is Brown: Combined with relentless Scenery Gorn like woah. Much of the movie was filmed in an abandoned strip-mine, which is about as close as you can get to a Real Life post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Throw the Dog a Bone: On top of the boy finding a new family in the end like in the book, birds and animals can be heard during the credits, assuring us that the world isn't completely dead and life will go on.
On top of that,it was mentioned in the beginning of the movie that every animal died.But they find a beetle towards the end.Not to forget,the family in the end has a rather healthy dog.