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Characters in The Road, both the original novel by Cormac McCarthy and the film.

The Man

Played in the film by: Viggo Mortensen

The boy's father.

  • Anti-Hero: He loves the Boy and will go to great lengths to protect him, even if it means ignoring the plight of other survivors who are likely doomed anyway.
  • Badass and Child Duo: With the Boy, his son.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: In both. He eventually dies from it on the last page.
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  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He disregards the wellbeing of other survivors out of necessity and occasionally yells at the Boy, but cares about and loves him deeply, more than himself.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Necessitated by the horrific world. He only has the Boy.
  • Papa Wolf: And how. He'll do anything to protect the boy.
  • Pet the Dog: Usually at the Boy's urging, he'll help out a less fortunate survivor.
  • Secretly Dying: He knows it's not looking good for him, but lives in denial because he cannot bear the thought that he'll leave the Boy alone.

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The Boy

Played in the film by: Kodi Smit-McPhee

The boy, the Man's son whose innocence he tries to protect above all else.

  • Badass and Child Duo: With his father.
  • Kiddie Kid: In the film he looks to be between 10-12 but he acts very immaturely for his age. He's constantly holding his teddy bear, his father still bathes him and he's easily frightened.
  • Children Are Innocent: Surprisingly played straight. He even wants to spare the man who stole from them.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Invoked. He occasionally tells the Man that he wants to be dead and with his mother, which gravely upsets him.
  • Messianic Archetype: Possibly. He's certainly "carrying the fire" at the end.
    He knew that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.
  • Morality Pet: The Man probably would have gone off the deep end if he didn't have him.
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  • Nice Guy: His compassion is a defining trait, to the point where he finally has enough of his father's callousness and chews him out for leaving a thief to die of hypothermia.

The Mother

Played in the film by: Charlize Theron

The boy's mother and the man's wife.

  • Advertised Extra: In the film. She's advertised as a third lead behind Smit-McPhee and Mortensen, but she has only minutes of screen time.
  • Death Seeker: She wants to kill the Man and Boy alongside herself, but the Man doesn't let her.
  • Driven to Suicide: She commits suicide in both the book and film.
  • Posthumous Character: Her flashbacks, as she's dead when the story begins.
  • Women Are Delicate: Played with. The Man stops her from killing the Boy because he still has hope (and he continues to protect the Boy after her death). But she's certainly right that a Cruel and Unusual Death awaits them.

Old Man/"Ely"

Played in the film by: Robert Duvall

An old man that the boy and the man encounter on the road.

  • Death Seeker: Defied. He sees death as a luxury, and finds it foolish to want it After the End.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Lost his son, though he never explains how.
  • Straw Nihilist: He knew the end of the world was coming and continues to hold a pessimistic attitude long after.
    There is no god and we are his prophets.

The Thief

Played in the film by: Michael Kenneth Williams

  • Anti-Villain: He's really just trying to get by in a world in its death throes, with none of the malevolence of the cannibals.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sure, he was willing to steal everything the Man and his son had, but given the world they're living in now, you really can't blame him. Plus, when the father forces him to give them everything he has, down to the clothes on his back, you can't help but pity him.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Heavily implied that after being forced to strip, he eventually dies of exposure.
  • Red Right Hand: Two of his fingers are missing.
  • Scary Black Man: Downplayed in the movie, where he's portrayed as black. He may undoubtedly be dangerous, but he's ultimately more pitiful than anything once the man forces him to strip down.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Probably one of the most heartbreaking examples of this trope. While the man holds him at gunpoint and forces him to strip, all he can do is sob and beg for his life.
    Please mister, you don't have to do me like this.

The Veteran

Played in the film by: Guy Pearce

A man that the boy meets on the beach after his father dies.

  • Ambiguous Situation: He claims to be one of the good guys, and certainly seems to be more trustworthy and friendly than the bandits and cannibals out on the road, but it remains up in the air if he actually is.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: In the movie, he's shown to have a dog. He also seems to be one of the few genuinely good people left in the world, at least relatively speaking.
  • Nice Guy: If we're to take him at his word. He does let the Boy say goodbye to his father and cover him up before taking him under his wing.
  • Parental Substitute: Becomes the Boy's new guardian at the end.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: He carries a shotgun and a bandolier of shotgun shells.

Motherly Woman

Played in the film by: Molly Parker

The Veteran's wife.

  • Action Mom: She's survived for as long as she has in the Death World, so it's safe to assume she is.
  • Nice Girl: Seemingly. She says she was worried about the Boy after watching him and the Man for so long.
  • Parental Substitute: Takes in the Boy as one of her own children.
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