The Road is a fundamentally agnostic novel, meaning that some characters seem to believe in God and others seriously doubt God's existence. The protagonist of the novel flips back and forth on whether he believes in God. McCarthy himself doesn't really weigh in. For long stretches, the novel's bleakness and horrific events might make the reader think God doesn't exist or has at least abandoned the characters in the novel. Then a lyrical, hopeful passage will crop up and suggest otherwise. Although the novel remains agnostic, it does suggest that the sacred might be found in other people – that even in the worst of times, goodness is enshrined in the person you love most.
Questions About Spirituality
- Halfway through the novel, the character Ely, in an attempt to explain The Boy's goodness, says: "Maybe he believes in God" (238.10). The Man's response, "I don't know what he believes in" (238.11) doesn't shed much light on The Boy's beliefs. Do you think The Boy believes in God? Is that why, as Ely suggests, he remains compassionate in a cruel world? Or does God have nothing to do with it?
- Try to unpack the Christian allegory of the novel. Are either The Boy or The Man Christ figures? What makes you think so?
- The character Ely says some pretty wild stuff. For example: "There is no God and we are his prophets" (237.30). Do you think Ely is a bitter madman, or is he wise? Is it possible for him to be both?
- Do you think McCarthy would have hurt the novel if he had pushed it further toward either belief in God or atheism?