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The Road

The Road


by Cormac McCarthy

The Road Theme of Memory and the Past


Memory is something of a double-edged sword in The Road. The protagonist wants to remember the past, but when he does, he has trouble focusing on survival. Also, by remembering the past, the protagonist feels he's altering his memories of it, so he tries not to recall too much in order to preserve it. However, the setting of the novel is so terrible that the protagonist really needs the sustenance of the past. Basically, The Road presents memory and the past as an unavoidable conundrum: even though memory connects the protagonist to beauty and goodness, it only reminds him that those things no longer exist.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. The trout passage at the end of the novel is shamelessly beautiful. But who is remembering the trout? Almost all of the memories in the book have been The Man's, and at this point he is dead. Is it the Boy? The Veteran who takes on The Boy? Is The Man somehow still speaking? Or is this the narration of some unidentified consciousness?
  2. Do you believe The Boy will have good memories of his father, or will his memory be tainted by the horrors the two encountered on the road? What will The Boy's relationship be to memory – will it be as fraught as The Man's?
  3. Do you think the bloodcults remember the former world? Why or why not?
  4. Is memory heroic and moral in the world of The Road, or is it a weakness that can be exploited?
  5. How are dreams different from memories in the novel? Do they pose the same dangers? Is one more revelatory than the other?

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