by Cormac McCarthy
Spirituality Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
[The Man:] You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand? (120.5)
A little plot background might help here: the Man has just saved The Boy from a very scary-looking dude who probably would have killed him. (It's unclear why this scary-looking dude tries to kidnap The Boy. To get The Man's stuff? So he can get The Man and The Boy back to his truck and eat them?) It is clear, however, that The Man takes parenting – which, in this book, involves protecting kids from bloodcults – very seriously. Seriously enough, in fact, to say it's his God-given mission in life.
[The Man:] How would you know if you were the last man on earth? he said.
[Ely:] I dont guess you would know it. You'd just be it.
[The Man:] Nobody would know it.
[Ely:] It wouldnt make any difference. When you die it's the same as if everybody else did too.
[The Man:] I guess God would know it. Is that it?
[Ely:] There is no God.
[The Man:] No?
[Ely:] There is no God and we are his prophets. (237.23-237.30)
The Boy and The Man meet an old man on the road who at first says his name is Ely but then says that's not really his name. (For simplicity's sake, we're just calling him Ely.) Ely says some mysterious things, especially this last catchy phrase: "There is no God and we are his prophets." What in tarnation does that even mean? It could mean: "God doesn't exist and our suffering is proof that he doesn't exist." It could also mean: "God doesn't exist up above the universe, but he exists in some of us (like The Boy) and so we are his prophets." Or – and this is the more complicated, juicier version – it could just be one of those mystical religious statements that don't make logical sense but ring true to many people. (Here's a familiar one: "Jesus was both divine and human.") Is your head spinning now? Good.
[Ely:] When I saw that boy I thought I had died.
[The Man:] You thought he was an angel?
[Ely:] I didnt know what he was. I never thought to see a child again. I didnt know that would happen.
[The Man:] What if I said that he's a god?
The old man [Ely] shook his head. I'm past all that now. Have been for years. Where men cant live gods fare no better. You'll see. It's better to be alone. So I hope that's not true what you said because to be on the road with the last god would be a terrible thing so I hope it's not true. Things will be better when everybody's gone. (237.72-237.76)
Ely can be a real downer. For example, this statement: "It's better to be alone." He also pretty much says the years have worn down his belief in anything exceptional, anything holy. We think "where men cant live gods fare no better" means that men carry their gods within them. When men get broken by suffering, their gods also disappear. It's kind of a novel statement – that our happiness and comfort allow our gods to exist.