(aka McCarthy, You Are a Cruel, Cruel Man)
by Brandy Anderson
One of the first things you notice when you begin to read McCarthy’s The Road is the striking format. McCarthy’s skillful disregard of conventional formats works well within this narrative. The broken, fragmented pieces of paragraphs reflect their fractured lives. The quotation-less dialogue between the man and the boy further shows the decay of formal lifestyles. It shows that the rules of the past no longer apply to the desolate future. It blurs the lines of reality. The distinctions between action and thought become ambiguous.
Memory of the past plays a large role in The Road as it does in many other post-modern novels. The man increasingly loses his connection to the world of the past. “He tried to think of something to say but he could not. He’d had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colours. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already?” (75). The stark, ashen new world is erasing the relics of the world he once knew, the world that his son never knew.
While some readers may argue there are only two principle characters, I would argue there are in fact five: the man, the boy, the pistol, the cart, and the new world. The man and the boy are obvious lead characters, however, the pistol and the cart serve equally important roles and both are crucial to the survival of the father and son. The pistol and cart are constantly with the man and the boy throughout their bleak journey and they panic during the few moments when the two objects are not within their grasp.
Arguments could also be made that the new world in itself is also a main character. The bleak, grey world is a catalyst for everything that happens to the man and the boy. It shapes their lives. It determines their course. The new world kills the man who most likely would have been cured in the former society where he could have sought treatment of his likely consumption. The new world turns the boy into an orphan. The Road and its five principles characters form a haunting story that has left a mark on me.