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The Road

The Road


by Cormac McCarthy

Mortality Quotes in The Road

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)

Quote #4

It was harder going even than he would have guessed. In an hour they'd made perhaps a mile. He stopped and looked back at the boy. The boy stopped and waited.

[The Man:] You think we're going to die, dont you?

[The Boy:] I dont know.

[The Man:] We're not going to die.

[The Boy:] Okay.

[The Man:] But you dont believe me.

[. . .]

[The Man:] How long do you think people can go without food?

[The Boy:] I dont know.

[The Man:] But how long do you think?

[The Boy:] Maybe a few days.

[The Man:] And then what? You fall over dead?

[The Boy:] Yes.

[The Man:] Well you dont. It takes a long time. We have water. That's the most important thing. You dont last very long without water.

[. . .]

He [The Man] studied him. Standing there with his hands in the pockets of the outsized pinstriped suitcoat.

[The Man:] Do you think I might lie to you?

[The Boy:] No.

[The Man:] But you think I might lie to you about dying?

[The Boy:] Yes.

[The Man:] Okay. I might. But we're not dying.

[The Boy:] Okay. (155.1-155.32)

This is another example of the absurd discourse about death between The Boy and The Man (see previous quote). It's cool also to think of these dialogues as happening within one person. We all recognize the inevitability of death, and yet at some level we don't acknowledge it. It's normal to avoid thinking about what we fear the most.

Quote #5

He [The Man] was beginning to think that death was finally upon them and that they should find some place to hide where they would not be found. There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasnt about death. He wasnt sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or about goodness. Things that he'd no longer any way to think about at all. They squatted in a bleak wood and drank ditchwater strained through a rag. He'd seen the boy in a dream laid out on a coolingboard and woke in horror. What he could bear in the waking world he could not by night and he sat awake for fear the dream would return. (197.1)

This may sound off-topic, but think about boiling water. If you boil water in two pots, and one pot is smaller than the other, not only will the smaller one boil first, you'll also have more pressure built up inside the pot. Well, death is kind of like that; it's the small pot. Put the threat of death in the mix and suddenly everything burns with an unheard-of intensity. Death increases the pressure. In McCarthy's setting, death is lurking around every bend in the road, in every house and every pasture. So it's really no surprise that thinking about beauty and goodness – two things that are already intense – would send The Man into a tear-fest.

Quote #6

Early morning. He looked at the house and he looked out toward the road and he was about to lower the hatch door again when he stopped. The vague gray light was in the west. They'd slept the night through and the day that followed. He lowered the door and secured it again and climbed back down and sat on the bunk. He looked around at the supplies. He'd been ready to die and now he wasn't going to and he had to think about that. [. . .] Finally he rose and went to the table and hooked up the little two burner gas stove and lit it and got out the frying pan and a kettle and opened the box of plastic kitchen implements. (216.1)

The Man has spent so long thinking that he's going to die that now, in a relatively safe place, he doesn't know to do with himself. The Man's response to his quandary is both simple and beautiful: he begins to make breakfast.

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