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The Road takes place a few years after Lavos emerges.

The world ended in 1999? Very plausible. Bleak, desolate world nearly devoid of life? Check. A few ragged survivors, all slowly starving to death? Check. Mutants and robots running rampant? Not yet. Perhaps, there are automated factories still running, independently, developing AI over a few centuries and then, eventually, creating the genocidal robots and other advanced technology. The "mutants" are the sparse lifeforms that somehow manage to adapt for survival in a world with almost no resources. Pockets of bedraggled survivors, perhaps attempting to re-establish civilization or just to be near shelter, huddle in a handful of the world's ruined cities, where, presumably, they manage to persist in vain for three hundred years.


The boy doesn't exist.

The boy is just a hallucination spurred on by the man needing a reason to live. When Ely asks "Are you a little boy?", he's only thinking that because the man was talking to someone else. Notice Ely never talks directly to the boy, or vice-versa.

Conversely, the father doesn't exist.

Or rather the father was dead at the start of the novel. The father is a mental construct/hallucination of the boy, helping him deal with living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Anytime something "bad" happens like stealing, killing, and so on, it's the father that does it. In reality, the boy is doing everything, but he imagines the father is doing these bad things to help him retain his grip on his humanity.

The Road is a sequel to the film Idiocracy.

Not much to add to this one. This theory showed up over at The Onion AV Club and demanded to be shared.


Everyone really is Jesus in Purgatory.

So there's an unspecified disaster that happened at some point before the book starts. It killed off trees, animals, cockroaches, sarcastic pimp-bots that look like Jude Law — and yet somehow a handful of humans lived through it. This is a huge clue that we're not supposed to take this as literally After The End; all the human characters are actually dead. The boy is actually an angel and he is helping the father ascend to Heaven (remember all that business about "carrying the light"). The father's death was actually his ascension, and the angel/boy will go on to save the people who show up at the very end.

Yellowstone caldera is the cause of the cataclysm
yellow stone (or any supervolcano for that matter)is a good fit. it won't just effect America but it's capable of covering the WHOLE planet in dust and debris for years if not decades. that's long enough to starve the planet of sunlight, thus decimating vegetation and wild life.
  • The main flaw is that, well, we actually do have something of an 'upper limit' known for a Yellowstone eruption (and for the rest of the supervolcano), and they wouldn't make things quite this bleak, world-wide... but Yellowstone can still work, though: the story takes place in North America, and the rest of the planet would very likely be in no shape to send help to any surviving Americans, what with needing to work hard to keep some semblance of civilization running during the years without summer.
    • You would still see some life, though, if only the occasional insect blown in by the wind or patch of fungus from drifting high-altitude spores.

Aliens have detonated a biological warhead to choke the planet to death, planning to terraform Earth after the indigenous life dies off
Perhaps the warhead hit in the eastern hemisphere, thus North America only hearing the detonations and feeling the effects. Maybe the Aliens are already hard at work on the opposite side of the planet. Either way, the hopeful ending at the end of the book is in vain.

The cataclysm turned North America into No Man's Land
This is related to the Yellowstone theory, except that the rest of the world fares (relatively) better. Realizing that there's a snowball's chance in Hell of expecting survivors, the remaining nations cordoned off the continent. Apart from pointing satellites on the ruins, they're just waiting for the dust to finally settle.

The Planet is actually a partially glassed UNSC Colony
Similar to the above alien theory, This planet was a earth colony that got abandoned after the UNSC withdrew leaving the rest to die a slow and painful death along with the planet. Maybe it wasn't glassing perse' but maybe a Type of Depopulation Bomb. The Covenant didn't have time (or the resources after a previous battle) to glass it so they sloppily used another weapon and left.

They are "carrying the light"
They're too lucky. Unoccupied bomb shelter? Abandoned beached yacht? And then the man dies and the boy is immediately rescued by the only other decent people ever? God has a plan for them. Or something.
  • Remember though, the other decent people had been following them for a while. They would've rescued him whenever the man died.

The world isn't all dead.

I mean, they travel across half of America, but there's more to Earth than just that. Africa? South America? Antartica? The Marianas Trench? I mean, the author keeps most of the book feasible, so I wouldn't be surprised if Greenland or Australia would have taken a pass. America (and likely China and most other major world superpowers) just got royally screwed with the crap end of the stick. That said, it wouldn't make the novel any less post-apocalyptic and depressing, as the boy probably won't ever hear of any surviving patches of Earth, even if they DID exist.

  • We don't even know what happend in the verse of The Road. All we know is that there was no summer for as much as ten years. And if there was no summer in States for such long time, there was no summer anywhere else, that's how climate works. The impact of this climatic disturbance (if it was climatic disturbance) was enough to knock down one of the most populous countries into no-mans land ihabited with sparse groups of cannibals. Even if we assume that there are some nicer places than US, they are as much screwed by the sole fact of no vegetation.
    • That's definitely not how climate works; the Earth is not a Single Biome Planet, and evidence from previous volcanic eruptions show that the effects are much more pronounced the closer to the disaster you are. There is a finite amount of ash, and the further it travels less of it remains. It's entirely possible that while North America is dying, the rest of the planet is merely suffering.

Man and Woman were anticipating the cataclysm
Notice in the beginning they had tons of can goods. Then there was the Robert Duvall character saying "They said this would happen". Then there's that bunker were it looked like it might have been stocked in preparation of the impending cataclysm.

The family eventually ate their horse
Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • So who was struggeling with it so much?

The family is no different than the cannibals
No other people appearing in the book (with the possible exception of Ely, though his appearance is brief enough as to invite speculation) are altruistic- not only are there cannibals, there are "death cults", a potential child-molester, a man who attempts to steal their cart of belongings, and a man who shoots the father in the leg with a bow. The family has a similar self-interest, but is craftier about it, picking up the bereaved boy. Assuming the children of the family are the children of the adults, perhaps the boy is picked up to serve as food on the hoof, so to speak; and perhaps the children are in a similar situation to the boy, being picked up by the adults to be eaten later.
  • In the book, at least, there are suggestions that some people live together in communes that are relatively peaceful in comparison to most of the wanderers. However, they are never actually seen, and it's possible that they could have all died off. It's possible that the family could be a member of one of these groups.

The Book of Eli takes place in the same universe
The bad thing that happened is pretty similar - but the worst was over by then, and the west fared better than the east.
  • Ely is Eli.
  • I don't know, The Book of Eli was pretty explicit about taking place in a post nuclear apocalypse. Also I'm no expert on this, but if this post apocalyptic world has the worst thing on the West Coast being San Francisco's impressive lack of fog while the East Coast is a barren hell of ash and death then I think there's something seriously wrong.
    • In a doomed attempt to strenghten this idea you can always assume that The Road takes place right after the war, hence the nuclear winter. Then you have The Book of Eli, many years after the war. Depending on the scale of the conflict, nuclear winter can take from a year to fifteen, so this crazy merging of universes could make sense. So instead of place being a factor, time is.
    • This is completely plausible. In The Road, the boy is around, what, eight? And he was conceived before the end, born shortly after. In The Book of Eli, the main female character seems to be 20-25 and was born after the end, though I can't remember if it states how long after. That would give us at least a twelve-year difference between the timing of the films, a reasonable amount of time for things have bounced back. Not to mention, the east coast could have been hit harder than the west coast — DC is a major target, plus there's a higher population density in general on the east coast.

Take Shelter is a prequel to The Road.
The prophesied unknown horrible storm is whatever happened to the world.
  • Maybe... but The Road seems to be more of a case of a global cataclysm. Take Shelter seems to be more of a localized disaster that primarily effects people turning them insane. If anything it's probably closer to being connected to The Crazies.
    • Or meant the ending when the prophesied big disaster may actually be happening.

There is a near-solid crust above the atmosphere at the time of the story.
This situation is more extreme than a nuclear winter, and evrthing will eventually choke because of closed air circulation. It's also preventing useful light from getting to plants.

The Road takes place in the same Universe as Homestuck.
The most feasible cataclysm that could cause all of the effects seen in The Road would be a swarm of meteors striking the Earth. A nuclear war would be unlikely to cause midday twilight so many years after the fact, particularly given the reduced stockpile since the height of the Cold War, and a single comet or asteroid impact wouldn't result in the "series of low concussions" associated with the disaster or the dispersed damage patterns encountered by the Man and the Boy as they travel through the South East. More likely, a swarm of meteors would have been necessary. Given how unlikely it is that such a large cloud of significant near-Earth objects could be missed during over a century of astronomical research, they seem to have just appeared from nowhere.

What makes meteors appear from nowhere? People playing Sburb. Clearly, someone in the world of The Road decided to start up an ill-advised session of everyone's favorite apocalypse "simulator".

Every theory for what caused the disaster is correct.
The events leading up to the The Road started with an impact from a very large comet, followed by chunks broken off from itself during its close approach to the sun. Because of its enormous size, the comet ignited fire storms across most of the Earth, and caused large scale volcanic activity on the opposite side of the world from its impact site (an effect that can result from a particularly dramatic cosmic collision). During the long impact winter following this event, several countries went to war over food, water, and fossil fuel reserves, ending with several separate small-scale nuclear wars and finally a full-scale exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Distressed by the fact that humanity would be foolish enough to worsen its own circumstances, an alien race came to Earth and now orbits the planet, regularly firing several kinetic kill projectiles at the surface to keep the impact winter going until the human race is dead and the world can be considered clean.

The Road is set in the Mad Max universe, just further on down the line.
The Mad Max movies deal with the cataclysm in the initial stages when society has collapsed, people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but supplies are still relatively plentiful. The Road deals with what happens after the excitement dies down years later and all of the running around has exhausted the majority of whatever supplies were still available.


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