How we cite our quotes:
They lay listening. Can you do it? When the time comes? When the time comes there will be no time. Now is the time. Curse God and die. What if it doesnt fire? It has to fire. What if it doesnt fire? Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock? Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing? Can there be? Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick. Pull him toward you. Kiss him. Quickly. (172.1)
Oh dear. The Man asks himself if he can kill The Boy – to prevent others from harming him in worse ways – if and when "the time comes." McCarthy's language reaches a beautiful, sympathetic pitch here – "Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick." We also want to point out other famous conundrums of this sort, in which a father has to sacrifice what he most loves for a greater good. The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac comes to mind, in which God asks Abraham to kill his only son, then at the last minute says "just kidding." God and Jesus also come to mind.
He sat the boy on the footlocker under the gaslamp and with a plastic comb and a pair of scissors he set about cutting his hair. He tried to do a good job and it took some time. When he was done he took the towel from around the boy's shoulders and he scooped the golden hair from the floor and wiped the boy's face and shoulders with a damp cloth and held a mirror for him to see.
[The Boy:] You did a good job, Papa.
[The Man:] Good.
[The Boy:] I look really skinny.
[The Man:] You are really skinny.
He cut his own hair but it didnt come out so good. He trimmed his beard with the scissors while a pan of water heated and then he shaved himself with a plastic safety razor. The boy watched. When he was done he regarded himself in the mirror. He seemed to have no chin. He turned to the boy. How do I look? The boy cocked his head. I dont know, he said. Will you be cold? (225.1-225.6)
What does this passage have to do with love? Well, The Man does a better job cutting The Boy's hair than he does his own. You may respond: "OK. Whatever. The Man can actually see what he's doing when he cuts The Boy's hair." Fair enough. But isn't this "failure" part of love? That we care for others somehow better than we could ever care for ourselves?
He stopped. What happened to your flute?
[The Boy:] I threw it away.
[The Man:] You threw it away?
[The Boy:] Yes.
[The Man:] Okay.
[The Boy:] Okay. (231.54-231.59)
Earlier, The Man had carved The Boy this nifty flute. (McCarthy doesn't really describe the carving – he just mentions it.) It must have taken a long time – musical instruments aren't easy to make after all. So The Boy just goes and throws the flute away? Wouldn't you be angry and hurt? But The Man isn't – or doesn't seem to be – which only goes to show how much he loves The Boy. Didn't someone once say that love is patient?