by Cormac McCarthy
Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
He pulled one of the boxes down and clawed it open and held up a can of peaches. [The Man:] It's here because someone thought it might be needed.
[The Boy:] But they didnt get to use it.
[The Man:] No. They didnt.
[The Boy:] They died.
[The Man:] Yes.
[The Boy:] Is it okay for us to take it?
[The Man:] Yes. It is. They would want us to. Just like we would want them to. (210.3-210.9)
This passage outlines another principle in their code of ethics: Don't take things from people unless they can't use them. It really is quite amazing that The Boy, even though he's near starvation, makes sure he does right by other people. Come to think of it, if there's a weak point in his character, it's that he's too conscientious. He seems almost unbelievably saintly at times.
[The Boy:] Do you think we should thank the people?
[The Man:] The people?
[The Boy:] The people who gave us all this.
[The Man:] Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.
[The Boy:] Will you do it?
[The Man:] Why dont you?
[The Boy:] I dont know how.
[The Man:] Yes you do. You know how to say thank you.
The boy stared at his plate. He seemed lost. The man was about to speak when he said: Dear people, thank you for all this food and stuff. We know that you saved it for yourself and if you were here we wouldnt eat it no matter how hungry we were and we're sorry that you didnt get to eat it and we hope that you're safe in heaven with God.
He looked up. Is that okay? he said.
[The Man:] Yes. I think that's okay. (218.13-218.23)
This is yet another example of The Boy's pretty simple code of behavior: Don't steal from other people. But we also want to point out how The Boy begins his prayer with the words "Dear people" instead of "Dear Lord." How linked are compassion and faith for The Boy? Does a belief in God push him to compassion, or does compassion push him to faith?
The old man [Ely] fitted the tins into his knapsack and fastened the straps. You should thank him you know, the man said. I wouldnt have given you anything.
[Ely:] Maybe I should and maybe I shouldnt.
[The Man:] Why wouldnt you?
[Ely:] I wouldnt have given him mine.
[The Man:] You dont care if it hurts his feelings?
[Ely:] Will it hurt his feelings?
[The Man:] No. That's not why he did it.
[Ely:] Why did he do it?
He looked over at the boy and he looked at the old man. You wouldnt understand, he said. I'm not sure I do.
[Ely:] Maybe he believes in God.
[The Man:] I dont know what he believes in.
[Ely:] He'll get over it.
[The Man:] No he wont.
The old man didnt answer. He looked around at the day. (238.1-238.14)
For starters, we love Ely's crotchetiness ("Maybe I should and maybe I shouldnt"). There's also a telling exchange here about The Boy, which helps explain – though only a little – his singular compassion in the face of such a dismal world. When The Man says he's not sure he understands The Boy's compassionate nature, Ely responds that maybe he believes in God. The Man doesn't commit one way or the other, but he does remain firm on one point: The Boy won't "get over" this kindness. As readers we can hold onto this tidbit from The Man. Whatever happens to The Boy, his kindness defines him. (Side question: Is kindness also what defines The Boy and The Man as a group? Is it the thing that differentiates them from other people on the road?)