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Writer's Reviews - The Road: Cormac McCarthy

The critical-literary analyses offered by WriTribe are a thousand words long. Each has been compiled with the intention of providing writers not only with a general introduction to the works presented, but also to reveal the added value inherent in each of them.


1,000 words go far beyond mere criticism or superficial praise; they are intended to point you to one or more secret elements, showing you what narrative techniques are masterfully employed by the author of the work in question.


Written with the unique perspective of an author for authors, reviews aim to point out to you what added value you can glean from twenty literary classics. With this in mind, choosing the reading best suited to your need will prove much easier.


 

Cover of the book The Road by Cormac McCarthy

 

The Road (2006)

Cormac McCarthy


The work at a glance

The Road, original title The Road, tells the story of a father and son who travel through a world devastated by an unspecified catastrophe (perhaps a nuclear disaster, which is inferred from the father's brief recollection) that has destroyed all life except human life, albeit reduced to a primitive state. The two main characters are also anonymous; the father has no name and his young son is simply called the boy.



The two travel on foot along a deserted road to the ocean trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic world in which every resource is now stripped to the bone, nature is in ruins, and civilization has collapsed. The father's goal is to take his son south, hoping to find a warmer and less dangerous place. On their journey they face constant threats including food and water shortages, intense cold, and encounter other survivors, some of them desperate and dangerous.



The father tries to protect and guide the boy by teaching him to be cautious and still believe in good, despite the desperation that surrounds them and the devastation they witness that tests their courage. The boy, in turn, represents almost a last hope for humanity, with his father seeing in him a reason to continue to survive in a world torn apart by violence and despair.


 

What you can learn from reading this work:


  1. The post-apocalyptic genre

  2. Use of a unique narrative style

  3. Extreme setting and exploration of the human condition


 

McCarthy's The Road offers an excellent example of the genre termed post-apocalyptic in which the change in what represents the natural order of things is imagined as a result of a catastrophe that, in this case, is not even specified but devastates the world in all its components, human and natural. Such a devastating and radical change allows the novel to immediately bring the reader into the actual story, that of a father and son trying to survive and their profound bond.


This genre feature is characteristic of the contemporary novel because it reflects fears with respect to a nature subjugated by man and rebelling, and it further propels the narrative into a dystopian and bleak future. The Road has the distinction of being one of the first post-apocalyptic novels that, in a devastated world, highlights the emotional and psychological drama of its characters; not only that, McCarthy helped take this genre to a new level of literary complexity, thus influencing many of the later works.


Cormac McCarthy is an author of the highest caliber, and he succeeds in telling it all with raw and powerful prose that captures the bleak and grim atmosphere of this post-apocalyptic world thanks in part to an essential but no less evocative style. This is a true example of how, even in the face of a plot that carries a dark component (the apocalyptic catastrophe does not have a well-defined origin and this, too, creates a disorientation), the novel manages to maintain a very high and certainly engaging pace and narrative tension. Being able to create such an intense atmosphere brings the reader and fully immerse themselves in the story and bring the characters' own experience to life, thus managing to keep their attention. Because, and The Road is an excellent example of this, it is possible to write a compelling story even if it is extreme, dark and apocalyptic.


McCarthy explores, through the characterization of his characters-especially in the deep bond between father and son-all the complexity of the human condition particularly related to that hostile setting. In their struggle for survival father and son experience despair, fear, and sacrifice, but in their union, marked by unconditional love, traits of hope also emerge, as in this passage:


- We're going to be all right, aren't we, Dad?

- Yes. We're going to be all right.

- And nothing bad will happen to us.

- That's right.

- Because we carry the fire.

- Yes. Because we carry the fire.


 

Conclusions

Cormac McCarthy's The Road was a novel that profoundly marked the course of contemporary literature, elevating the American writer, who sadly passed away in June this year, to the rank of the most important authors of our time. The novel immediately received critical acclaim for its deep introspection on the human condition and for the writer's ability to deeply investigate universal themes, making the work almost a philosophical and moral treatise.


The Road has received numerous literary awards, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 2006 and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007, and has had a significant cultural impact by inspiring the silver screen as well. It is the 2009 film adaptation by John Hillcoat, with actors Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee playing father and son traveling south in their struggle for survival after the destruction.


This novel left a decisive mark on literature and continues to be a source of inspiration and reflection for readers and writers around the world. To name a few: Peter Heller, the author of The Dog Star (2012), wrote a post-apocalyptic novel that has been compared to The Road because of its stark narrative and struggle for survival, again, after a catastrophic event; and Justin Cronin, who in the first book of his trilogy, The Passage (2011), took up many of the elements addressed in McCarthy's novel.


The Road may seem like a text that is not easy to approach precisely because of the darkness that is outlined throughout the narrative and at times, almost leaves one with no hope. However, it must be acknowledged how much the American writer's skills, which emerge in his prose and use of clean yet sharp language, make reading the novel a fascinating and authentic experience that is emotionally engaging and remains anchored deep within every reader.

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