by Cormac McCarthy
The Road Theme of Isolation
The isolation of the two main characters in The Road is pretty extreme. God has seemingly abandoned them, and they have totally lost contact with other decent people. For The Man, isolation compounds into something resembling alienation. His memory of a previous (and better) world makes the one he's in seem all the more desolate. However, McCarthy tempers the isolation of his novel with an endearing father-son relationship. For most of the novel, the two have each other – and that makes the isolation shared, at least.
Questions About Isolation
- For much of the novel, The Man says he won't leave The Boy alone in the world, even if it means killing him. Do you think The Man abandons The Boy at the end by not killing him? Did The Man do the right thing? Is it isolation The Man wants to protect The Boy from or something else?
- Think about the large groups of people our protagonists meet on the road. Now think about the isolated travelers, like Ely, or the family at the end. Does this novel seem to say people do terrible things when they are in large groups?
- The Man says this about his wife's suicide: "She was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift" (94.1). Do you think The Woman is being kind or cruel here? Also, consider how much The Man tortures himself with memories of the previous world. What if the world could have disappeared with a similarly clean break? Would that have been easier on The Man?