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Themes

Although Cormac McCarthy is known as a connoisseur of excessive violence, we think most of the violent stuff in The Road is justified. McCarthy portrays a post-apocalyptic landscape where the scarcity of resources has driven the few survivors to murder, thievery, and even cannibalism. The more sympathetic characters attempt common decency, avoiding brutality as much as possible. A more cynical take on the book, however, would be that the less sympathetic survivors aren't driven to malicious deeds, but that the absence of law and order simply allows the worst parts of human nature free reign.

Questions About Violence

  1. Most of the survivors in The Road have turned to cannibalism and murder. Do you think the novel has an overly bleak diagnosis of humanity? Or is it hopeful, since The Man and The Boy (mostly) remain generous and compassionate?
  2. Some critics have compared McCarthy's book to zombie horror films like Night of the Living Dead (1968). Is this comparison justified? Is The Road horror literature?
  3. The Boy never harms anyone in the novel, while The Man harms quite a few people (though always out of necessity). Do you think The Boy will turn out like his father – violent when pushed? Or will he somehow escape the pressures of this post-apocalyptic wasteland? Is it already too late?
  4. There are some stunningly beautiful passages in The Road. Check out, for example, the description of the trout on the last page. Does the beauty of these passages depend on the violence and depravity of the rest of the book?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
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