by Cormac McCarthy
Memory and the Past Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. (390.1)
We can't read this passage without tearing up. This is the world human beings lose in The Road – either through their own self-destructiveness or through some random disaster. It's almost as if, though, in this memory of the past there's a pattern for how the world might begin again. McCarthy says: "On their backs were vermiculate [like worms!] patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again."
We know McCarthy says the disaster can't be undone, or made right. But don't you hold out some hope that deep in a glen there's still a brook trout with the pattern of the world on its back? And that somehow the world can be reconstructed from that pattern? It's possible, of course, that we've fallen into the very trap The Man tries hard to avoid: nostalgia for a lost world.