Study Guide

The Road Love

By Cormac McCarthy


For all the violence and gore in The Road, there's a beautiful love story at its center. Given a post-apocalyptic setting, you might be imagining tough guys and scantily-clad women. Instead, we get a surprisingly tender story about a father and son. In the novel, love survives in the midst of a chaotic, barbaric world. McCarthy also sets some pretty high standards for love: these characters care for each other with a level of self-sacrifice and compassion that we usually only see in saints. Granted, love is mostly limited to the family unit here. But perhaps the isolation of the characters makes love even rarer and more precious.

Questions About Love

  1. Before The Man and The Boy start out on the road, The Woman commits suicide. She believes The Man and The Boy should kill themselves too, since it won't be long before gangs of evil men rape and kill them. Do you believe The Woman loves The Boy? How is her love for The Boy different from The Man's? Is one better than the other?
  2. In his interview in The Wall Street Journal, Cormac McCarthy says that everyday conversations with his son John made it "verbatim" into the book. What effect do you think this has on the novel, especially since the setting is so distant from our ordinary experience?
  3. Near the end of the novel, The Man whispers to The Boy, "I will not send you into the darkness alone" (339.1). Soon after, The Man dies, but he doesn't kill The Boy, even though leaving him alone in the post-apocalyptic wasteland amounts to sending him "into the darkness alone." Why does The Man change his mind?
  4. Neither The Boy nor The Man ever says "I love you." Why would McCarthy leave this out?