by Cormac McCarthy
Spirituality Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
When it was light enough to use the binoculars he glassed the valley below. Everything paling away into the murk. The soft ash blowing in loose swirls over the blacktop. He studied what he could see. The segments of road down there among dead trees. Looking for anything of color. Any movement. Any trace of standing smoke. He lowered the glasses and pulled down the cotton mask from his face and wiped his nose on the back of his wrist and then glassed the country again. Then he just sat there holding the binoculars and watching the ashen daylight congeal over the land. He knew that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke. (3.1)
Although it seems like The Boy might believe in God, it's not all that clear whether The Man does. However, The Man does believe in the sanctity of The Boy. Meaning, he believes that The Boy is holy – maybe the only thing holy left in the world. This provides The Man with purpose: if he can protect The Boy, he's doing something good. It's his "warrant" – in a sense, the sacred activity that authorizes The Man to live.
He woke before dawn and watched the gray day break. Slow and half opaque. He rose while the boy slept and pulled on his shoes and wrapped in his blanket he walked out through the trees. He descended into a gryke in the stone and there he crouched coughing and he coughed for a long time. Then he just knelt in the ashes. He raised his face to the paling day. Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God. (13.1)
In this passage, it seems like The Man might actually believe in God. If someone starts asking questions about the physical characteristics of God – "Will I see you at last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you?" – it's possible this someone has at least a smidgeon of faith. By getting angry at a possible God, he lets on that he just might believe in God. It's also important to note that if he does really believe in an all-powerful being, The Man is quite angry with him.
The blackness he woke to on those nights was sightless and impenetrable. A blackness to hurt your ears with listening. Often he had to get up. No sound but the wind in the bare and blackened trees. He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination. He took great marching steps into the nothingness, counting them against his return. Eyes closed, arms oaring. Upright to what? Something nameless in the night, lode or matrix. To which he and the stars were common satellite. Like the great pendulum in its rotunda scribing through the long day movements of the universe of which you may say it knows nothing and yet know it must. (19.1)
We're not sure why The Man has to get up in the night. He's not tending a fire in this passage – maybe to scout out suspicious sounds? Or cough? Anyway, McCarthy's description of total darkness is pretty cool: "a blackness to hurt your ears with listening." And although there's total darkness in the night, The Man doesn't think there's total nothingness. He guesses there might be "[s]omething nameless in the night, lode [rich source of something] or matrix" (i.e., there might be a very anonymous and quiet God out there).