by Cormac McCarthy
Strength and Skill Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
While the boy slept he sat on the bunk and by the light of the lantern he whittled fake bullets from a treebranch with his knife, fitting them carefully into the empty bores of the cylinder and then whittling again. He shaped the ends with the knife and sanded them smooth with salt and he stained them with soot until they were the color of lead. When he had all five of them done he fitted them to the bores and snapped the cylinder shut and turned the gun and looked at it. Even this close the gun looked as if it were loaded and he laid it by and got up to feel the legs of the jeans steaming above the heater. (222.1)
When The Man needs to be cunning, he can do it. Usually he's just clever, but every so often he throws a little deception into the mix. In this passage, The Man whittles fake bullets (and even stains them!) so that other people on the road will think he's got a fully loaded revolver. Not that there's anything wrong with cunning, especially since The Boy's life is at risk. It simply adds another incredibly useful skill to The Man's already long resume.
He'd saved the small handful of empty cartridge casings for the pistol but they were gone with everything else. He should have kept them in his pocket. He'd even lost the last one. He thought he might have been able to reload them out of the .45 cartridges. The primers would probably fit if he could get them out without ruining them. Shave the bullets to size with the boxcutter. (223.1)
We don't have any deep insight into this passage or a phrase to point out that utterly reveals The Man's character. We're just amazed that The Man would be able – if he only had some empty cartridge casings – to reload his bullets and "shave [them] [. . .] to size with a boxcutter." Holy cow.
He checked the valve on the tank that it was turned off and swung the little stove around on the footlocker and sat and went to work dismantling it. He unscrewed the bottom panel and he removed the burner assembly and disconnected the two burners with a small crescent wrench. He tipped out the plastic jar of hardware and sorted out a bolt to thread into the fitting of the junction and then tightened it down. He connected the hose from the tank and held the little potmetal burner up in his hand, small and lightweight. He set it on the locker and carried the sheetmetal over and put it in the trash and went to the stairs to check the weather. [. . .] He looked at the house and he looked out over the dripping countryside and then let the back door down and descended the steps and set about making breakfast. (229.1)
This is another instance (like 22.1 and 320.1) where we're not even sure what The Man is doing. We think he's taking apart the stove he found in the bunker so that it's only a burner and gas tank, but there's so much threading and tightening that we lose track. Anyway, we think we should point out that most of the amazing things The Man does in the novel are for the sake of his son. He's not putting together a flamethrower so he can beat up on the bloodcults. He's just making a simple, lightweight stove to cook for himself and his son. The Man's isn't resourceful just to be resourceful; he does most of this stuff out of love.