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The original novel The Road contains examples of:

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Did the group who was roasting a baby on a spit breed that baby specifically to eat, or was the baby just stillborn and their devouring the corpse an unpremeditated act of desperation?
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: One scene switches to first person.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: The fact that the line "carrying the fire" appears here and in No Country For Old Men hasn't gone unnoticed. One theory has it that The Road is a distant sequel to Old Men. Another theory is that everyone really is in Purgatory and that the boy is their savior.
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  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: This is a post-apocalyptic wasteland scenario done in one of the bleakest ways possible. Though there are glimmers of hope in the novel, it's an unremittingly bleak and brutal book.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Surprisingly enough, given the book's reputation as a massive Tear Jerker.
    • Meta example: Cormac McCarthy wrote the book basing the relationship between the Man and the Boy with his own relationship with his son, John, and all royalties for the went towards John's college tuition.
    • The family at the end taking the Boy in after the death of his father, and even allowing the Boy to say goodbye and cover him up.
    The woman when she saw him put her arms around him and held him. Oh, she said, I am so glad to see you. She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didnt forget. The woman said that was all right. She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Pretty much one of the reasons why the ending is so bittersweet. Even though the boy is in good hands, the biosphere may be dead. If so, no one is going to live long once what is left of food is eaten and the remaining humans have all cannibalized each other.
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  • Jerkass Woobie: The Man. What he's been through is undoubtedly tragic, and his health and mental stability are obviously in a state of decline. But he's a hypocrite who — for all his repeated insistence that he and the Boy are the "good guys" — fails to practice what he preaches, and it takes convincing from the Boy for him to actually bother to help anyone.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Lightning-struck man with a melted face sitting on the road and waiting to die.
    • The protagonist and his son enter a house, and the son keeps saying he doesn't want to go in. Then he opens a door and finds the people the bad guys have been eating... alive.
    • The protagonist later sees three men and a very pregnant woman. Three days after, he and his son pass through a camp that has the remains of a beheaded, roasted infant on a spit.
    • In one scene a woman and her child flee from a group of violent attackers. They are caught, and apparently murdered in cold blood.
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  • Squick: After a bout of illness, The Man is described as "filthy with diarrhoea."
  • The Woobie: The Boy. Imagine being a child with no real childhood to speak of, where every day of your life is a desperate fight for survival and the only person you have to look up to is your ailing father who — out of pragmatism — will refuse to make decisions that could potentially save the lives of others (or at least buy them time), despite your urging.

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