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The Light Bearers 
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Post The Light Bearers
- "Are we still the good guys?"
- "Yes, We are"


Cormac McCarthy takes us by the hand into a journey to an apocalyptic world by the hand of a father and son who "run" into a sort of pilgrimage trying to carry the Light in a dark, hollow world which is now a complete chaos. It´s like a escape to the horror, searching for a "sea" of salvation that offers nothing but death in return. It´s like that same voyage that Mr Conrad once tooks us in his masterpieace "Heart of darkness" but this time is no a trip to Congo but across a more nearby place: our homeland

From the very beginning we feel that the world we know is no longer there. Everything is chaos, darkness and ashes. Humans, for no apparent reason, have destroyed the world we know. As Roger Waters once put it in one of his albums humans "amused themselves to death". Mc Carthy makes us witness of the worst side of human nature. How humans can obtain the greatest achievements and at the same time we may turn into the wildest species on earth. One of the most brutal examples is that scene when father and son come across that basement of horror where people are kept there as beef cattle.

It´s bravery what you need in order to survive in a world like this, and not everybody is fit for that challenge. "The wife" couldn´t take it any more, and makes a "quick" escape. But it´s the father the real bearer of the Light they try to bring to "the Road". He tries to preserve both his son´s life and innocence. He strains himself to such an extent that he finally has to pay a very expensive toll. He does everything within his reach to protect his "family". He kills and even goes beyond his strength in order to offer his offspring a better future. He really never gets to know, but he manages somehow in the end. Light moves to different bearers and a new ray of hope shines through this barren and obscure world where even now everything is possible, and HOPE, after all is what always keeps us alive.



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Chris OConnor
Sun May 08, 2011 11:18 am
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
So, what light do we bear? What do we try to pass on to our children? What understanding of the world sustains us?



Fri May 13, 2011 3:45 pm
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
I guess we all, in a way, have to be light bearers, both with ourselves and with our offspring. We always try to lead them into the correct path even if we sometimes fail. Nobody said that being a father is an easy task, but this "father" character exemplifies with capital letters the meaning of "FATHER", trying to lead a son through devastating reality to a better world, where no matter what, HONESTY, LOVE and FAMILY still play a role.



Last edited by ImosIndo on Sat May 14, 2011 12:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat May 14, 2011 12:24 pm
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
Does anyone else see the child as the light bearer?
The child has no knowledge of life before the apocalypse, and this leads me to characterise him as a boy full of wonder. Although he's an extremely bright kid and realises the extent of the damage around him, he doesn't grasp the fact that the world has completely flipped upside down. He still has hope. He believes that there will be light some day; why wouldn't he? The father, however, realises that hope will never be restored. The father wants to be the light bearer; he pretends that he is, just to fill the stereotypical position of being the caregiver, and to provide comfort for the boy and perhaps himself.

The boy has courage all along. He's scared at times, sure, but he has an overriding sense of curiosity that somewhere, this is hope. The father can provide love, comfort and protection, but he's 100% aware of the situation and is completely terrified of what will never happen.



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Harry Marks
Sun Oct 23, 2011 7:04 pm
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
heyimlexa_ wrote:
Does anyone else see the child as the light bearer?
The child has no knowledge of life before the apocalypse, and this leads me to characterise him as a boy full of wonder. Although he's an extremely bright kid and realises the extent of the damage around him, he doesn't grasp the fact that the world has completely flipped upside down. He still has hope.

I have given a lot of thought to the role of children in meaning. For many of us, the specific issue of what we will pass on to our children, in understanding, in character, in environment, is the single most important aspect of what gives meaning to our lives.

Teaching Sunday School, I had an opportunity to explain to children every year that Christmas was about Jesus coming as a baby - vulnerable, dependent, humble, essentially unnoticed. He was anyone and everyone. I didn't try to explain that he was the story that told his parents what their life's purpose was. That is a very normal, and overlooked, way that children bring light.

Today we see young people rejecting the resignation of the parents. Their parents have given up on a lot of things. The issue on which it first showed up was control of assault weapons. But I have looked in the eyes of hundreds of students over the last 20 years and I can tell you they feel betrayed by their parents, who are letting greenhouse gases go on building up and not doing a thing. The Arctic ice cap is melting, the forests are burning (which is MacCarthy's nod to climate change as the most likely explanation of the apocalypse he is writing after), the floods are rising, the hurricanes are getting out of control, and American leaders are passing the buck - to them. The kids.

A lot of older Americans like to think of themselves as the Greatest Generation. A lot of Americans in my age bracket, the Baby Boomers, like to think of themselves as the ones who changed the world, for the better. Both are looking pretty pitiful, like Neville Chamberlin coming back from Germany with "peace in our time."

What do our kids mean to us? How can we claim any authority to speak to them of courage, or of right and wrong? What the hell is wrong with us?

heyimlexa_ wrote:
The boy has courage all along. He's scared at times, sure, but he has an overriding sense of curiosity that somewhere, this is hope. The father can provide love, comfort and protection, but he's 100% aware of the situation and is completely terrified



Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:38 am
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
ImosIndo wrote:
Humans, for no apparent reason, have destroyed the world we know.

I'm under the impression that in McCarthy's novel we're not told what happened to cause the extinction of almost all living things. The world of the novel doesn't appear consistent with post-nuclear war. I think McCarthy purposefully left the cause unstated, and it was as if the characters themselves didn't know. McCarthy seemed to block everything out in order to focus just on the day to day struggle of the man to ensure that his son would not become a meal for cannibals.

Reaction from readers to the uplifting ending was mixed, with many being simply relieved that everyone else in the world didn't turn out be horrible cannibals, while others thought McCarthy lacked the nerve to remain true to his very dark vision.



Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:07 am
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
DWill wrote:
I'm under the impression that in McCarthy's novel we're not told what happened to cause the extinction of almost all living things. The world of the novel doesn't appear consistent with post-nuclear war.
It's true McCarthy didn't say what the cause of the worldwide catastrophe was. However, the small reminiscence provided, mainly of burning forests and food becoming harder and harder to get, strongly suggests global warming.

DWill wrote:
I think McCarthy purposefully left the cause unstated, and it was as if the characters themselves didn't know.
I'm not so sure they didn't know. They seemed to me to know there was something inevitable about it - the process had been set in motion and was not likely to have run its course. And the father seemed to feel some part of a collective guilt, even as he felt helpless to do anything to turn it around.

DWill wrote:
McCarthy seemed to block everything out in order to focus just on the day to day struggle of the man to ensure that his son would not become a meal for cannibals.
I think cannibalism is mainly metaphor. McCarthy has dealt with violence as a way of living in most of his novels, from "No Country for Old Men" and "Blood Meridian" to the Border Trilogy, with "All the Pretty Horses" being the most well known. Some people prey on others, and violence is their m.o., while the great majority seek to carry on a life of peace and purpose.

DWill wrote:
Reaction from readers to the uplifting ending was mixed, with many being simply relieved that everyone else in the world didn't turn out be horrible cannibals, while others thought McCarthy lacked the nerve to remain true to his very dark vision.
I definitely don't see it as a failure of nerve. The father had heard of the possibility of people holding out for civilization and resisting the predators. The image of the father's desperate migration is given meaning by the notion that there is a place worth getting to. McCarthy has a vision behind his narrative, not just in how vicious people can be from their distorted perspectives and warped hearts, but also of how purposeful life can find its way within this bramble thicket of evil.

It's worth giving a thought to what the predators think they are doing in this story. They are trying to subsist on what was generated before. Somehow they have hit on feeding people in order to eat them, as a solution - it is a useless plan compared to eating the "feed" themselves. But they are not raising cattle, they are gathering the scattered remnants of humanity. So they will have something to eat. Not a sensible plan, but one they choose as supposedly the only alternative to being eaten themselves.

It's an image for the bankruptcy of violence as a way of life. McCarthy admits to coming from a cultural background that is in many ways similar to that of J.D. Vance, author of "Hillbilly Elegy." Some of his early works, notably "The Orchard Keeper", give an honest account of a society that keeps rolling with a combination of hiding (from the "Revenuers" who would shut down their stills) and fighting (because the reach of the law is limited, and because men demean other people as an expression of their struggle for status). Its Celtic roots are never far from the mind of the author. Anarchy and chaos are the enemy, and violence is the enemy's way of perpetuating itself.



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Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:59 am
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
Harry Marks wrote:
It's true McCarthy didn't say what the cause of the worldwide catastrophe was. However, the small reminiscence provided, mainly of burning forests and food becoming harder and harder to get, strongly suggests global warming.

I can't imagine how climate change could have made the earth so barren. I recall reading that McCarthy had spent some time before writing the book at some futurist think tank in New Mexico (I think). Maybe there he picked up on some scenario that might result in a sterile world. Maybe such a scenario might not even implicate humans as the bad guys--wouldn't that be a switch.

Quote:
I'm not so sure they didn't know. They seemed to me to know there was something inevitable about it - the process had been set in motion and was not likely to have run its course. And the father seemed to feel some part of a collective guilt, even as he felt helpless to do anything to turn it around.

It's likely to be as you say. My recall of novels isn't the best, and I must have read The Road about five years ago. Some work friends and I went out to see the movie, which I thought was well done.
Quote:
I think cannibalism is mainly metaphor. McCarthy has dealt with violence as a way of living in most of his novels, from "No Country for Old Men" and "Blood Meridian" to the Border Trilogy, with "All the Pretty Horses" being the most well known. Some people prey on others, and violence is their m.o., while the great majority seek to carry on a life of peace and purpose.

For sure the father did want to save his son from falling into the hands of the bad guys. He had a bullet ready for the purpose of saving the son from their perversions. It was Abraham and Isaac with a twist. Just curious, which of his novels you've read do you like the most? I've read only Pretty Horses and Old Men besides this one.
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I definitely don't see it as a failure of nerve. The father had heard of the possibility of people holding out for civilization and resisting the predators. The image of the father's desperate migration is given meaning by the notion that there is a place worth getting to. McCarthy has a vision behind his narrative, not just in how vicious people can be from their distorted perspectives and warped hearts, but also of how purposeful life can find its way within this bramble thicket of evil.

Maybe some thought the avoidance of the dad having to kill the boy was the failure of nerve. I didn't think so myself. The book employs an archetypal plot that rarely fails, the perilous journey. McCarthy ramps up the dangers quite a bit. I have a friend who dislikes dystopian visions, feeling that people don't devolve to such brutality when the environment becomes very harsh. She says that even in the case of food being super scarce, we wouldn't see the (almost) wholesale evil depravity we see in The Road. I wonder. As you said below, food is the key. If it's really not there, who knows where people would stop.
Quote:
It's an image for the bankruptcy of violence as a way of life. McCarthy admits to coming from a cultural background that is in many ways similar to that of J.D. Vance, author of "Hillbilly Elegy." Some of his early works, notably "The Orchard Keeper", give an honest account of a society that keeps rolling with a combination of hiding (from the "Revenuers" who would shut down their stills) and fighting (because the reach of the law is limited, and because men demean other people as an expression of their struggle for status). Its Celtic roots are never far from the mind of the author. Anarchy and chaos are the enemy, and violence is the enemy's way of perpetuating itself.

I didn't know that about McCarthy's background. I wondered if he may have had a lot of experience with mechanics and other so-called blue-collar labor. More than any writer I can think of, he gives the reader the nuts and bolts of his characters using tools, which for me gives his work a lot of immediacy. One relevant bio fact that I recall seeing is that a few years before starting it, he became a father for the first time. That would explain why and how he forged such a powerful portrait of the father-son relationship.

I just glanced at the author's bio: looks like privilege early on--father a lawyer. Cormac later joined the Air Force. He pulls a Stephen Crane with his strong verisimilitude.



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Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:48 am
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Post Re: The Light Bearers
DWill wrote:
I can't imagine how climate change could have made the earth so barren.
Good point, actually. Though there are places where the deserts are advancing, due to increased evaporation, the stronger hydrologic cycle means more rain overall, not less. Could be I just latched onto that interpretation early and didn't check the fine points. Or, as you suggest, there may have been different views around, especially when he wrote the book.
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My recall of novels isn't the best, and I must have read The Road about five years ago.
Now your point about barrenness has me questioning my own memory of it, since I read it similarly far back.
Quote:
For sure the father did want to save his son from falling into the hands of the bad guys. He had a bullet ready for the purpose of saving the son from their perversions. It was Abraham and Isaac with a twist.
Interesting. In addition to my possible misinterpretation of the apocalypse, I don't think I realized that the last bullet he was saving was for that. If it said it outright, it must have gone in one eye and out the other. Truly a chilling twist on Abraham and Isaac, but that's a good observation.

Quote:
Just curious, which of his novels you've read do you like the most? I've read only Pretty Horses and Old Men besides this one.
By a wide margin, All the Pretty Horses. His themes of sacrifice of the young emerge more clearly in the later Border Trilogy novels, but it is just such a gripping story I loved it.

No Country for Old Men is strong - some powerful characters and the theme of getting caught in the Tar Baby of greed is well handled, but the Chigurh character played by Javier Bardem in the movie just felt over the top to me (odd complaint - see below.) I'm quintessentially American in rooting for the underdog, and the remorseless and apparently unstoppable pursuit of his objectives by Chigurh left me feeling it should have more substance behind it, or at least the twisting and turning of those he outmaneuvers could have some thread of hope offered once they realize their pact with the devil is coming due.

Blood Meridian is the one the critics like, and with good reason. It is as harsh as The Road, incessantly violent, but injects some odd magical realism in the form of the character The Judge. He plays off the character's descriptive name in several different ways (which show up again in different form in the Border Trilogy) and leaves the reader with an almost head-scratching lack of resolution. Yet, as with The Road, I liked it so much for the intellectual connections that I forgave the brutality and the possible unreality (hard to explain why No Country for Old Men doesn't get the same free pass - maybe because it was constructed as realism from first to last). Some critical lists have it as practically the only competition with Tony Morrison's Beloved for Greatest Novel of the last 30 years. Might be a bit overrated - I am not up on Bellow, DeLillo and Roth, for example, who also get a lot of critical appreciation, but surely have even more intellectual substance to them.

As for The Road, I remember being powerfully moved by the father/son relationship, but in the end it wasn't enough story for me to rate it above the other three. There's a moment at the end of Camelot when the dying King passes Excalibur to a boy, and it stirs some of the same sense of meaning for me. The Road felt to me like a long, bleak exploration of that moment.

Quote:
She says that even in the case of food being super scarce, we wouldn't see the (almost) wholesale evil depravity we see in The Road. I wonder. As you said below, food is the key. If it's really not there, who knows where people would stop.
Well, I found it easier to connect with than the bizarre Mad Max setup in which everyone fights over the little bit of gasoline left in the world. I don't think your friend is wrong to distrust dystopias. And usually they are meant to warn about a particular trajectory of society, at least in the Big Three of 1984, Brave New World and The Handmaid's Tale (should I add Atwood's equally chilling Oryx and Crake? maybe).
DWill wrote:
Quote:
McCarthy admits to coming from a cultural background that is in many ways similar to that of J.D. Vance, author of "Hillbilly Elegy."
More than any writer I can think of, he gives the reader the nuts and bolts of his characters using tools, which for me gives his work a lot of immediacy.
I just glanced at the author's bio: looks like privilege early on--father a lawyer. Cormac later joined the Air Force. He pulls a Stephen Crane with his strong verisimilitude.
There's a line in The Orchard Keeper about how a great many children of backwoods Southerners went to the Ivy League on moonshine money, which he gives punch by comparing it to drug money giving the children a way to respectable education from the black ghettos. Makes me wonder if his father might have been the Vance comparison.
I also like his "hands on" approach to actual work. His writing about horse training in Pretty Horses is pretty convincing, but then, I don't know horses, and I found The Horse Whisperer just as believable. Maybe I just like a good metaphor. But he does have a way of drawing a person into whatever business is being done, whether it's the father rummaging frantically for hidden food in The Road or the careful arrangements being made with the loot in No Country for Old Men. One of the things that makes Blood Meridian so chilling is that he does the same thing with the makings of violence.



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