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The Road

The Road


by Cormac McCarthy

Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes in The Road

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)

Quote #1

The boy kept looking back. Papa? he whispered. What is wrong with the man?

[The Man:] He's been struck by lightning.

[The Boy:] Cant we help him? Papa?

[The Man:] No. We cant help him.

[The Boy:] The boy kept pulling at his coat. Papa? he said.

[The Man:] Stop it.

[The Boy:] Cant we help him Papa?

[The Man:] No. We cant help him. There's nothing to be done for him. (82.1-82.8)

This is typical dialogue between The Boy and The Man. Against all good sense, The Boy wants to help everyone they meet on the road. The Man knows they need to keep moving and conserve supplies if they want to survive. We think, though, that The Boy's compassionate gestures contribute something just as important to the survival of their little band: he keeps them human.

Quote #2

[The Boy:] What if that little boy doesnt have anybody to take care of him? he said. What if he doesnt have a papa?

[The Man:] There are people out there. They were just hiding.

[. . .]

[The Boy:] I'm afraid for that little boy.

[The Man:] I know. But he'll be all right.

[The Boy:] We should go get him, Papa. We could get him and take him with us. We could take him and we could take the dog. The dog could catch something to eat.

[The Man:] We cant.

[The Boy:] And I'd give that little boy half of my food.

[The Man:] Stop it. We cant.

He [The Boy] was crying again. What about the little boy? he sobbed. What about the little boy? (132.2-132.12)

In this instance, The Boy's compassion strikes us as a little more complicated than purely unselfish generosity. He perhaps sees himself in this other little boy. When he sobs over him, he's also sobbing over his own misery. Or, seen another way, The Boy has come to depend on his father so much that he can't imagine life without him, so what about this little boy who seems to have no one at all?

Quote #3

The boy lay with his head in the man's lap. After a while he said: They're going to kill those people, aren't they?

[The Man:] Yes.

[The Boy:] Why do they have to do that?

[The Man:] I dont know.

[The Boy:] Are they going to eat them?

[The Man:] I dont know.

[The Boy:] They're going to eat them, arent they?

[The Man:] Yes.

[The Boy:] And we couldnt help them because then they'd eat us too.

[The Man:] Yes.

[The Boy:] And that's why we couldnt help them.

[The Man:] Yes.

[The Boy:] Okay. (194.11-194.23)

The Man teaches The Boy quite a bit in this little exchange. He breaks the news to The Boy that the "bad guys" are going to eat the people they just saw shut in the basement. He also outlines the basic limits of compassion in the novel: you can't help too many people because the "bad guys" will catch up with you. The Boy and The Man have to limit their generosity because of the scarcity of food and the constant dangers on the road. However, The Boy's questioning of these principles keeps The Man honest. We also think it stirs up a great deal of admiration for his son.

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