How we cite our quotes:
When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. (1.1)
For all of the violence in this book, McCarthy opens it surprisingly tenderly. Some writers say the whole short story or novel should be present in the first paragraph. McCarthy goes one step further: here's the whole book in the first sentence. To sum up: It's dark and cold and nasty outside, but these characters love each other.
And then later in the darkness:
[The Boy:] Can I ask you something?
[The Man:] Yes. Of course you can.
[The Boy:] What would you do if I died?
[The Man:] If you died I would want to die too.
[The Boy:] So you could be with me?
[The Man:] Yes. So I could be with you.
[The Boy:] Okay. (11.16-11.22)
Earlier in the novel, The Woman criticizes The Man for using The Boy as a reason to live. ("The one thing I can tell you is that you wont survive for yourself" [93.22].) We think The Woman's approach is a little cynical. Isn't it a good thing that The Man wants to live in order to care for the boy? That he would die to be with The Boy? We're going out on a limb here, but we think The Road contains one of the most moving father-son relationships in all of American literature.
They squatted in the road and ate cold rice and cold beans that they'd cooked days ago. Already beginning to ferment. No place to make a fire that would not be seen. They slept huddled together in the rank quilts in the dark and the cold. He held the boy close to him. So thin. My heart, he said. My heart. But he knew that if he were a good father still it might well be as she had said. That the boy was all that stood between him and death. (44.1)
Frankly, we thing it's OK that The Boy is all that stands between The Man and death. We might question The Man a little more if he were to use The Boy as a protective shield, but he doesn't. He finds his purpose in The Boy. Don't people look for reasons to live all the time, and isn't another human being (your child) a very noble reason to live?