by Cormac McCarthy
Strength and Skill Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
A quarter mile down the road he stopped and looked back. We're not thinking, he said. We have to go back. He pushed the cart off the road and tilted it over where it could not be seen and they left their packs and went back to the station. In the service bay he dragged out the steel trashdrum and tipped it over and pawed out all the quart plastic oilbottles. Then they sat in the floor decanting them of their dregs one by one, leaving the bottles to stand upside down draining into a pan until at the end they had almost a half quart of motor oil. He screwed down the plastic cap and wiped the bottle off with a rag and hefted it in his hand. Oil for their little slutlamp to light the long gray dusks, the long gray dawns. (7.1)
By "strength and skill," we don't mean just a WWE-style fighting ability. In addition to combat skills, we also mean something like "resourcefulness" or "cleverness." For example, The Man constantly rigs stuff and builds fires. Think MacGyver in a post-apocalyptic setting. Although The Man doesn't build anything in this passage, he does have the following smart thought: "There's probably a tiny bit of oil in each plastic bottle in the trash can at the gas station. If we drain each one, we might have enough oil for our lamp." Very resourceful.
They collected some old boxes and built a fire in the floor and he found some tools and emptied out the cart and sat working on the wheel. He pulled the bolt and bored out the collet with a hand drill and resleeved it with a section of pipe he'd cut to length with a hacksaw. Then he bolted it all back together and stood the cart upright and wheeled it around the floor. It ran fairly true. (22.1)
We're not even sure we understand what The Man is doing to the shopping cart here, but by working quickly and efficiently, he is able to fix its runaway wheel. This certainly isn't a life-or-death situation, but the tweak will help them cover more ground per day.
The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window. What is it? she said. He didnt answer. He went to the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the windowglass. He dropped to one knee and raised the lever to stop the tub and then turned on both taps as far as they would go. She was standing in the doorway in her nightwear, clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand. What is it? she said. What is happening?
[The Man:] I dont know.
[The Woman:] Why are you taking a bath?
[The Man:] I'm not. (88.1-88.4)
We're not sure The Man takes in the emotional and metaphysical significance of the apocalypse, but by golly he sure takes care of the details. Instead of panicking or huddling in a corner, The Man immediately starts filling the bathtub with fresh water so that his family will have something to drink. Don't you want this guy around when all those robots eventually take over? Or at least when the drain gets clogged?