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The Road Pages 1-33 
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Post The Road Pages 1-33
Please discuss pages 1-33 (the beginning) in this thread.


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Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:19 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
I enjoy the "diary" structure of the novel, the brief well-spaced paragraphs. It took a bit getting used to the omission of apostrophes and unmarked dialogue, but I'm cool with it now.

To survive, the father and son must rely on constant routine and the reminder of love for one another. One passage in particular seems to underscore this:

"...they found a few ancient runner beans and what looked to have once been apricots, long dried to wrinkled effigies of themselves."

I love that: "...have once been..."

If that isn't past, past tense then I don't know what is.



Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:58 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
In your mind where do you see the boy and the man? East coast? New England? urban or country?



Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:24 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
I've been wondering that... I mean, I think they'd be from a city, but I'm not sure.. If I had to bet on it, I'd say New York or something. They do have remarkable survival skills, which suggests the father at least may come from a rural setting.

The structure took me some getting used to as well. It reminds me of Jose Saramago's style, although Saramago will organize and entire conversation into one long sentence, whereas McCarthy makes a new line for every time someone speaks.


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Fri Oct 29, 2010 8:58 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
I found the setting for this novel to be very ambiguous. I don’t think McCarthy had any location in mind, the message he may have been going for is that these circumstances could happen to anyone, anywhere, or everyone, everywhere. I get the sense that this is a global catastrophe. By not specifying the exact location is impactful. It’s like McCarthy is saying, “this could be you”.

Time is also not specified. The aspect of time may be similar to the ambiguity of place. It could happen at any time. Again, this is very impactful. Most survival stories/movies give the time, place and the event which thrusts people into survival mode. These factors are missing here. Not only do we need to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps, but we need to recognize that this situation is very plausible. This is something that makes this novel scary, it actually could happen.



Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:28 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
He's not sure if it's October, but the father guesses that it is. You're right, Suzanne. Time isn't a key factor. Your ideas also tie into the reason why nobody has a name: The boy, the father, the men, the woman...etc.



Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:57 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
reader2121 wrote:
He's not sure if it's October, but the father guesses that it is. You're right, Suzanne. Time isn't a key factor. Your ideas also tie into the reason why nobody has a name: The boy, the father, the men, the woman...etc.


There are similarities to le Guin's "Left Hand of Darkness", including what you just mentioned.

Gee, I'm late--have to read faster (so much for time not being a key factor :)).


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Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:59 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
I think that McCarthy is challenging the reader in these first pages to either stand back and look at the characters, location, time etc. as largely undefined or to impose our own cultural/contextual lens on what we read. Either way might be valid but the resulting expereince of reading will be different depending on which way the reader goes and the degree to which the reader imposes his/her own context and worldview. Really, in the first 33 pages we know almost nothing about the characters except that they are male and are man and boy. We might assume that they are father and son but that would be jumping to a conclusion and filling in the blanks. There are also some mysterious references to a 'she' character but I wasn't able to get any grasp on this character. We don't know anything about their racial or cultural background, as to location, a lot of places in the world could fit this description .. cities, rural areas, highways, mountains, rivers, could be a lot of places. As to time, there is some hint of time of year, but if this is happening in the southern hemisphere perhaps October is wrong?

So in my view the author is leaving a great deal of space for us to fill or not to fill in the gaps and therefore each reader can experience the book differently. One key thing we do know from these first pages is that there has been a terrible apocalypse, loss of life and there are serious threats to the man and boy. Yet the threats are not well defined in this section so the story is propelled forward by a vague but serious sense of threat. Again, a chance for the reader to fill in the blanks, or not.

And yes I agree with oblivion, there are parallels with the Left Hand of Darkness.



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Fri Oct 29, 2010 1:24 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
oblivion wrote:
reader2121 wrote:
He's not sure if it's October, but the father guesses that it is. You're right, Suzanne. Time isn't a key factor. Your ideas also tie into the reason why nobody has a name: The boy, the father, the men, the woman...etc.


There are similarities to le Guin's "Left Hand of Darkness", including what you just mentioned.

Gee, I'm late--have to read faster (so much for time not being a key factor :)).


It's also similar to Saramago's novel "Blindness." No time, place, or names mentioned. I think it's interesting. Of course, it makes writing about it difficult- you have to be specific when talking about minor characters.

And don't worry- I'm late too. I've read this before, but I wasn't planning to start until November, since it's the book for November & December. :lol:


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Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:25 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
Father and son seem to have lots of conversations filled with one and two word sentences and not a whole lot of content. But I like this because it seems realistic, especially under the circumstances they are in. Some of these conversations take up most of a page in my little paper back.



Wed Nov 03, 2010 8:42 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
giselle wrote:
Father and son seem to have lots of conversations filled with one and two word sentences and not a whole lot of content. But I like this because it seems realistic, especially under the circumstances they are in. Some of these conversations take up most of a page in my little paper back.


I agree giselle. I get the feeling that the mom was a large influence in the child's life, and the lack of dialoge between dad and son really creates a void where the mom once was. There is almost an awkwardness in some of these conversations. But you do see them grow closer together. The dad is really in a bad spot, he needs to be able to comfort his son, and be realistic of their circumstances at the same time.

Giselle, you wrote something in another thread, about McCarthy's writing style. You wrote that the father depended on the son almost as much as the son depended on the dad. I think this is spot on. I really enjoyed your comments in that particular post.



Wed Nov 03, 2010 9:20 pm
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
giselle wrote:
Father and son seem to have lots of conversations filled with one and two word sentences and not a whole lot of content.


I think this is one of the key themes in the book...the spoken word, or even the Biblican "in the beginning was the word". Afterall, they are not only experiencing the end of the world as they know it but the beginning of something else. What is there in the world now other than the word?
I think the sentences are short and terse because, afterall, what is there left to talk about? It is mentioned that the father finds a newspaper but the "quaint" topics therein do nothing for him. There is no sustenance behind the words.
But the wordd itself is highly important, making them feel like humans beings. When the son is uncomfortable about something and doesn't speak to his father, he is admonished to "speak to me, son. Talk". Speech is one of the last vestiges of humanity. It is also important to the father that the son learns the alphabet.
Only one name was mentioned in the book, that of the old man who claims he is called Ely, but later says it is perhaps not even true--knowing names, giving your name away, is power or loss of power. And your name is one of the few possessions they have, definitely not to be shared with others. But I think this is a theme worth looking into..the meaning of speech and words.
(I love McCarthy's style of placing the adjectives behind the nouns in order to give them more strength.....it is also a more ancient way of writing English, indicative of the direction they are headed. And definitely more poetic).


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Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:06 am
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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
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Only one name was mentioned in the book, that of the old man who claims he is called Ely, but later says it is perhaps not even true--knowing names, giving your name away, is power or loss of power. And your name is one of the few possessions they have, definitely not to be shared with others. But I think this is a theme worth looking into..the meaning of speech and words.


You are so right. A person's name when everything else is gone, is the one thing that they have that means something to them. It is their last hope; their will to survive. "It's our legacy, we need to preserve it like bread and milk." (Can't remember what movie it was from.) Very good. I'm actually liking this book.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
Just a few random thoughts so far . . . .

Living in NC, I must admit imagining the setting this through my own biases: A road leading through Appalachia. I sort of rationalize this by thinking only the peaks and temperatures of a low-lying mountain range could accommodate a man and boy pushing a cart through the snow. But yes, could be ANY setting (region, country or continent).

The tone or style (not sure technically what it’s called) is almost dreamlike.

As a father, I am having a strong emotional reaction to this story.



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Post Re: The Road Pages 1-33
The relationship between the man and the boy is so empathic and heart-warming. It's the most colorful thing in this grey and ashen wasteland of a world. And it's surprising to me how McCarthy does this; he's distilled the relationship to the very foundations of what it is. There's no hugging, no jokes, no smiles or chiding... The world has made them miserable and the desolation of it encroaches upon them but they still have each other and that brings some happiness to both of them.

This relationship is starkly contrasted by the past relationship between the man and the woman, which feels more like a recurring nightmare.
I just finished one part where he's remembering an argument they had just before she kills herself. The writing style as he eases into the memory is much more... controlled? normal? Much more traditional and sequential. It's less dreamy than the actual narrative, as if the memory were somehow more real than what the man is currently experiencing. In fact as the memory begins you have no indication of when this scene is taking place relevant to "the apocalyptic event". It feels like just another one of his cherished memories, at first.

It reminded me of what bad dreams feel like before they turn bad.

Then, gradually, you realize that whatever it was that happened to the world has already happened, and as the woman's intentions become apparent the nightmare starts to kick in and the writing style starts to distort.

At that moment I thought of something the man says to the boy: "We forget what we want to remember, and we remember what we want to forget". And it put the man's remembrance of his wife into an entirely different focus. At first I'd thought he cherished his wife's memory, that he longed for happier times and regretted her not being with him anymore. But suddenly I got the feeling his remembrance was as much about remorse and guilt as it was about love.

I'm starting to suspect that reading this strictly as post-apocalyptic fiction would limit my appreciation of its richness. It seems to me the world's desolation is, partially, a picture of the man's desolation due to the breaking up of his family by powers outside of his control. The only bright thing in his world is his son, and he regrets what happened to his wife every day...

...Of course, I'm only at the beginning of the book :). Let's see how this story progresses.

EDIT: Heck, I seem to have placed this comment on the wrong thread... I think the scene I'm referring to must be beyond page 33 of the book.... It's confusing not having pages in the kindle edition. Is there any chance we could get a post of the kindle locations relative to the pages in the printed book? I'll be happy to do it myself and post it here if anyone has a scan of the book or anything like that which I could use to find the correct locations.



Last edited by VMLM on Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:50 am, edited 8 times in total.



Thu Nov 25, 2010 3:55 pm
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