Study Guide

The Road by Cormac McCarthy in Hermeneutics

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Think some degree of civilization and trust within society are things you can expect out of the world? Think again. The world of The Road is a place devoid of civilization and any social order you can count on. A father and a son travel south toward the ocean on roads that used to be managed by the United States. Some horrible, unbelievable, inexplicable (at least never by Cormac) apocalyptic event has left their world in ruin. No animals or plants live, so there can be no hunting and no agriculture.

Well, there’s hunting, but the prey are—yikes!—human beings. The remaining people scavenge for canned goods and whatever else they can find, but, not too surprisingly, it can get brutal out there. The man and the boy can trust no one, because anyone can secretly be an enemy. Kind of like high school.

McCarthy is basically taking any basic expectations for order and calm and living a normal life in society and throwing it out the window. And that’s assuming there even are windows anymore in the world of The Road. Which there probably aren’t.

Hey, this is a place where the loss of civilization has changed everybody’s whole outlook on the human race, and uncertainty and distrust are seen as the basis of the human condition. Not quite the environment for a tasteful bay window with a view of the garden.

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