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The Road Pages 263-287 
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Post The Road Pages 263-287
Please discuss pages 263-287 (the final page) in this thread.


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Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:15 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
Did anyone else have a hard time suspending disbelief that the little boy managed to find "good" people when most of the book is filled with people eating one another?



Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:08 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
The Ritzy wrote:
Did anyone else have a hard time suspending disbelief that the little boy managed to find "good" people when most of the book is filled with people eating one another?


I have posted elsewhere that I think authors struggle with how to deal with 'child in peril' plot and McCarthy, I think, chickened out. Perhaps he wanted to leave us on an optomistic, hopeful note but to me it just read like a walt disney ending -- it was a silly, implausible ending to a book of questionable merit, in my view. I know it won awards but the only prize I would offer would be the 'quick read' prize. And frankly, the movie was worse, including the closing scene when the boy meets his 'new family'. I may sound a little cynical but I really did see this ending as walt disney hour material.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
giselle wrote:
The Ritzy wrote:
Did anyone else have a hard time suspending disbelief that the little boy managed to find "good" people when most of the book is filled with people eating one another?


I have posted elsewhere that I think authors struggle with how to deal with 'child in peril' plot and McCarthy, I think, chickened out. Perhaps he wanted to leave us on an optomistic, hopeful note but to me it just read like a walt disney ending -- it was a silly, implausible ending to a book of questionable merit, in my view. I know it won awards but the only prize I would offer would be the 'quick read' prize. And frankly, the movie was worse, including the closing scene when the boy meets his 'new family'. I may sound a little cynical but I really did see this ending as walt disney hour material.

Yes, it did have a feel of a picturesque ending for the situation. I, actually, wasn't that impressed with the book, either. I feel like the descriptions were beautiful but the repetitive nature of the dialogue didn't feel that poetic to me. And the ending was too much of a different tone from the rest of the book.



Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:08 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
The writing style of “The Road” is such a departure for McCarthy. The events of 9/11 affected so many writers, in the last several years I have noticed that many modern novelists have touched on this catastrophe, many in very small ways. McCarthy is one of the few that have written an entire novel based on his thoughts and feelings. Sometimes while reading it, and now thinking about it, I feel as if he may have written it for himself, to release his fears and tension and emotion connected with 9/11.

How else could this novel have ended? Throughout the novel the fathers fear of becoming ill, and he may have been ill the entire time, was a paramount theme. He was frightened for his son. The father’s illness, as well as the death of the mother makes me wonder if the catastrophe that happens in “The Road” was a man made one. Something made these parents sick, and I’m thinking radiation poisoning or something of the like. Another aspect to this novel was the fear of others, fear of other Americans (or other natives of any country, because this novel could be set anywhere) that the couple found while traveling, so the theme of fear is a big one. Why was the father so afraid of other people on the road? Wouldn’t America pull together after such a tragedy? This is a pretty sad outlook. This novel may also reflect McCarthy’s feelings towards the war. “We" retaliate, "They" retaliate, "We" retaliate, and looks what happens, total destruction. Both the “They” and the “We” are responsible.

Ending the novel as he did, McCarthy added hope. The father was planning on killing the child if he knew he was getting too sick to care for the child. The death of both of them would have been an alternate ending, however, again, I do feel that this novel reflects McCarthy’s gut feelings, and he wants to believe in hope, he wants to believe that the innocents will survive after such a tragedy. It may be that anyone who supports war may be seen as somehow responsible and dangerous. A child would not have this support, making this child innocent. Most Americans whole heartedly supported the war after 9/11. Why is the father so afraid of everyone? Fear! Everyone is the enemy, the father is a dangerous person too. The group of travelers, who take the child in, may have been a group of anti war activists, or peace loving people, people who truly love their country and the human race and they would be seen as safe and innocent. They could be seen as a group of people who may be able to band together and start over. Tribal societies of the past that survived were those who could band together, and who were able to affectively negotiate, negotiate, not retaliate.

Another broader theme is the people who are met on the road may represent the world as a whole. Are we afraid of every other country in the world? Of course we are. We fear those of different cultures and religions. The war after 9/11 separated nations, isolated nations. Do we work together as nations to provide safety for the world? No, nations travel the road alone, afraid of other countries.

The road started long before the couple’s journey. I don’t see how it could have ended any other way.



Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:29 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
Suzanne:

I agree with much of what you say here, McCarthy's characters were in an 'every man for himself' and 'take no prisoners' world, full of fear and brutality, and this can be seen at the individual or the country level. The systems of the civilized world that we count on every day to protect us from this sort of vicious world were completely gone. So, the father had to be brutal, had to kill in order to survive and I think, sadly, had to teach his son the necessity of this. We might think the father went overboard but I don't know, there would not be much time to weigh up the pros and cons before acting. Negotiations happen only between willing parties and I saw few of these in their encounters along the road. Trust has completely disappeared. The only chance for 'humanity' is to overcome this fear but that can only be built on a foundation of trust and understanding and where will that come from?

As to the ending, I think McCarthy could have left the boy's fate open ended, in many ways I think this would have been more consistent with the uncertainty of the book. I think his ending is falsely hopeful and just doesn't seem consistent with everything that went before and so it seems out of place.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
giselle wrote:
Negotiations happen only between willing parties and I saw few of these in their encounters along the road. Trust has completely disappeared. The only chance for 'humanity' is to overcome this fear but that can only be built on a foundation of trust and understanding and where will that come from?


This is very well said, and it may be a big point of the novel. There is no trust, there is only fear. The father did the best that he could. I called him a dangerous man only because he was in such great fear that he isolated himself and his son. This isolation creates a situation that can turn violent easily. You are correct, there was no one to connect to, and no one to bond with, everyone was out for themselves due to a lack of trust. You can’t blame them really.

I do have to say that the ending was a little pat. It was nice and tidy. Leaving the son’s fate open for speculation is an intriguing idea. But I can understand the father’s feelings. Had the son remained alone, at that young age, the boy may have grown to be a beast of sorts, a nocturnal animal. The boy may have lived, but what type of human would have he become?

I read somewhere that society is the opposite of chaos. I think there is merit to this statement. A large group of people with rules and a system will survive and thrive. The lone person or couple may become aimless and undisciplined which can create chaos, and there seemed to be a lot of people who fell into this category in the novel. If there is only chaos in the world, it will not last long.

Overall, this is not one of my favorite McCarthy novels. He has the ability to create strongly developed characters. There was vagueness with the characters in Road, almost like they were not characters with personalities, but more like walking feelings or traveling ideas. There was “boy” and “man”, there was “innocence” and “fear”. Strangers were threats, and a group became salvation. This is what I got out of it anyway.



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Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:28 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
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Last edited by giselle on Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:20 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
I like this idea of seeing the man and boy more symbolically rather than as physical beings because it opens up all sorts of interpretation possibilities. We can see them as walking representatives of humanity, stripped of civilization and its protection, and left with bare bones humaness. There is a pervading sense of directionless and lack of purpose to their travels. The man is not clear at all why he is travelling the road, other than a vague notion of reaching the coast. Lacking the structures and systems of civilization, or perhaps society is a better word, lacking identity and connections, they become virtually disembodied, wandering spirits in a world where all else is lost.

With respect to the ending, I note that the the father dies and leaves his son to his own devices, despite in earlier scenes holding a gun to his son's head, seeing the death of his son as preferable to him falling into the hands of others. So, McCarthy closed the book with the boy finding some semblance of 'society' and hope. He could have left the boy to fend for himself and I agree that he would have had to become an animal to survive, losing his innocence along the way. Perhaps this would have made a good sequel?



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Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:24 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
Suzanne wrote:
giselle wrote:
Negotiations happen only between willing parties and I saw few of these in their encounters along the road. Trust has completely disappeared. The only chance for 'humanity' is to overcome this fear but that can only be built on a foundation of trust and understanding and where will that come from?


This is very well said, and it may be a big point of the novel. There is no trust, there is only fear. The father did the best that he could. I called him a dangerous man only because he was in such great fear that he isolated himself and his son. This isolation creates a situation that can turn violent easily. You are correct, there was no one to connect to, and no one to bond with, everyone was out for themselves due to a lack of trust. You can’t blame them really.


Only having fear is one of the reasons why I had a bit of trouble with the ending. The father had good reason to fear what was on the road. Within the first half of the novel, the father and son came across people being kept prisoner for what we can assume to be for cannibalistic purposes. They meet such situations throughout their journey. It came as a surprise for the boy to come across what he considered "good" people in such a short amount of time. Or, at least, what felt like a short amount of time.
(Sorry if I got anything wrong, I don't have the book with me to check.)

@Suzanne: What you said about McCarthy writing from his thoughts and feelings makes a lot of sense and makes me see the novel in a different light. When you put the novel in conjuncture to what happened on 9/11, it makes a lot more sense to end the novel as it did.

However, I feel like the fear of becoming food to someone else was hyped up so much that it fell a little flat at the end. Though, he did stick with the man fearing he'd become ill, which ended up happening. I guess it would be hard to have hope if both of these events came true instead of just one.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
The Ritzy wrote:
However, I feel like the fear of becoming food to someone else was hyped up so much that it fell a little flat at the end.


If we do choose to stop and consider that the characters may represents such ideas such as civilization, society, culture or even nations, the theme of people used as a food source makes sense. Countries will use others for their own gain. It wasn’t too long ago when Germany was split up and distributed among other countries. In a way, Germany was eaten by these other countries. Many years of course have past since WWI, but, if this catastrophe which occurs in Road is a global one, powerful nations may try to gobble up as many resources as they can from nations or civilizations or societies which are less equipped.

giselle wrote:
We can see them as walking representatives of humanity, stripped of civilization and its protection,


Humanity, yes, I think you really touched upon something here using this word. Humanity does not have borders or boundries. If a global event happens, humanity would need to survive, not just Americans, or Germans, or Italians, or . . .

The young innocent boy, with the hopeful father, humanity? Hmmm? I like it! :)



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
Yes, the young innocent boy, the hopeful father and we shouldn't forget the mother, she is critically important to both of them, even in her absence ... together they are the fundamentals of humanity in this desperate world that McCarthy has imagined, humanity in the big sense, without regard to borders or race or other artificial ways of subdividing humanity into lesser groupings.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
The ending didn't bother me in the least. The boy does get lucky, but things are not altogether that hopeful...people survive for a time...somewhere there are still fish. Perhaps people can crawl out of the destruction and start the whole cycle anew...but there was something not hopeful about the imagery Mccarthy uses to describe the fish. Something is forever lost.

What I found interesting about the boy and his father, is that their journey's aree different ones. They both agree they "carry the fire." To the father, that fire is everything good and pure... God itself, in the boy. His journey is driven by his desire to keep that torch lit to the very end.

On the other hand, the boy likes the notion of carrying the fire, but throughout the story he is struggling to define what that is. His father has a reason to live, a reason to perservere. The son has a harder time accepting his own life as the driving reason. He begins to question their goodness. If they aren't helping others then they are leaving them to die....if they are struggling just for themselves, then truly, what is the point. If they aren't living by a higher ideal(and not eating people isn't quite enough for him) then what makes them special, what sets them apart with the fire. He begins questioning the truth behind what his father tells him. He tells him he lies a lot.

Perhaps the boy could continue to survive on on his own once his father dies, but what would be the point? Certainly no benefit to him. He has to take a chance. That said, he does get lucky. I think it is an opportunity for Mccarthy to show that there are pockets of humanity left..that as somebody else said, some trust, some faith in aspects of human nature needs to be extended so that it can be built upon...so that civilization can reconstitute.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
This is one of the many cases of an author being afraid to just say "... and everybody dies. The End." Sometimes that is the only plausible course. Just do it.
I know editors want it in at a certain page limit, but after all that deep dark harsh reality, don't detract from it with unlikely rainbows and lollipops. :evil:


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Post Re: The Road Pages 263-287
This might not seem relevant to The Road, which I read and saw the film version of, but I'm getting strong signals back to it from Jared Diamond's nonfiction book Collapse. Diamond tells of several societies that collapsed into the kind of depravity and brutality that McCarthy gives us in The Road. I've read so far about Easter Island and a group of three other Polynesian islands. The ultimate cause of the collapses is ecological devastation the societies brought on themselves. This is what we see in CM's book. I think his purpose might have been to show that we cannot maintain our humanity (except perhaps for a few exceptions) without, basically, food--which depends on having an ecosystem. I wondered why McCarthy was so vague about what caused the planet to die. Now I'm thinking he didn't want this to distract from what he was trying to show. It didn't make a difference what caused the the world to be ending.

What happens in The Road isn't confined to single societies, unlike in Diamond's book. But Diamond cautions that with globalization, with interdependence, there is now the potential for planetary collapse to occur, as far off as that prospect might actually be. Diamond is so far from a doomsday alarmist that when he makes a statement like that, I tend to pay attention.


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