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Themes

In The Road, there are actual groups of "good guys" and "bad guys," which is somewhat surprising for a work of literary fiction. In the wake of a world catastrophe, though, goodness has all but disappeared. The protagonists sometimes use a private language to describe goodness (e.g. "carrying the fire"), but goodness more or less means not eating other human beings and not brutalizing those weaker than you. That may not seem like much, but the universe of the novel is so bleak and terrible that even small acts of kindness seem heroic.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

  1. Do you think The Boy is truly good, or is it more accurate to call him naive?
  2. The Man doesn't seem to believe in God, and society's laws vanished in the disaster. So what does The Man refer to for moral guidance? Do you think The Man has a defined moral code? If so, how did he construct it?
  3. Where does evil come from in the novel? Is it created by circumstances, or is it something hidden inside human beings?
  4. The mother commits suicide before she really has to engage with evil. Do you think McCarthy considers her one of the "good guys" or does she fit into neither category?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
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