by Cormac McCarthy
Violence Quotes in The Road
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Section.Paragraph)
She was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift. She would do it with a flake of obsidian. He'd taught her himself. Sharper than steel. The edge an atom thick. And she was right. There was no argument. The hundred nights they'd sat up debating the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall. (94.1)
There's plenty of violence in The Road. The gangs roving the road don't play nice, and this means The Boy and The Man have to do some pretty unsavory things, too, in order to survive. But it's important to remember the presence (and threat) of self-violence in the novel. The Woman commits suicide to avoid violation by others. The Man also has two bullets saved in the pistol to kill himself and The Boy if things take a turn for the worse.
He [the roadrat] let go of the belt and it fell in the roadway with the gear hanging from it. A canteen. An old canvas army pouch. A leather sheath for a knife. When he looked up the roadrat was holding the knife in his hand. He'd only taken two steps but he was almost between him and the child.
[The Man:] What do you think you're going to do with that?
He didnt answer. He was a big man but he was quick. He dove and grabbed the boy and rolled and came up holding him against his chest with the knife at his throat. The man had already dropped to the ground and he swung with him and leveled the pistol and fired from a two-handed position balanced on both knees at a distance of six feet. The man fell back instantly and lay with blood bubbling from the hole in his forehead. (102.54-102.56)
There are plenty of extremely violent set pieces in The Road, and this is one of them. When a roadrat (one of the "bad guys" who steals and murders) tries to take The Boy hostage, The Man responds pretty much like an action hero in a movie would. He drops to his knees, pivots, and fires straight into the roadrat's forehead. McCarthy's description – "blood bubbling from the hole in his forehead" – is quite graphic.
Obviously we're very happy The Man is able to protect The Boy. But you also kind of have to wonder about the guy's ridiculous firearm skills. It's like when your friend has to tell a lie to protect you, but you're a little taken aback by just how good he is at lying – it's a little troubling.
He walked through the woods to where they'd left the cart. It was still lying there but it had been plundered. The few things they hadnt taken scattered in the leaves. Some books and toys belonging to the boy. His old shoes and some rags of clothing. He righted the cart and put the boy's things in it and wheeled it out to the road. Then he went back. There was nothing there. Dried blood dark in the leaves. The boy's knapsack was gone. Coming back he found the bones and the skin piled together with rocks over them. A pool of guts. He pushed at the bones with the toe of his shoe. They looked to have been boiled. No pieces of clothing. Dark was coming on again and it was already very cold and he turned and went out to where he'd left the boy and knelt and put his arms around him and held him. (110.1)
One funny thing about literature is that most authors worth their salt can still write pretty sentences even when they're describing something really ugly. It's almost as if you can't get away from beauty in good literature, no matter how hard you try. Case in point: McCarthy's prose sings here, even though he's describing the remnants of a cannibal feast.
Take a look at this sentence especially: "Dried blood dark in the leaves." Not only is it sharp visually, it's also got nice sound patterns. It's not that this book is particularly guilty of prettifying violence (compared to certain other works of great literature), but it's our job to point these things out.