Blog Post 11: On The Road Again

Hi everyone,

We covered some interesting ground today, leaving all sorts of things to pick up and think about further next week — questions of ethics and survival; of humanity, inhumanity, and animality; of progress, evolution, and decline; and of how the gendering of the novel and its characters might or might not shape how we think about these things. So for this blog post, you might think about how any of these issues continues to develop in the section we’ll discuss on Monday. Or you’re also welcome to address any other issues,whether they be related to these or separate. The only requirement here is that you ground your thinking in some quotation and close analysis of material from this section — show where and how the issues you’re discussing play out in the specific text of the novel.

Have a good weekend — see you all Monday!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Sunday, November 13th. After class on Monday, you should return to this thread and post a response to one classmate’s post by class time Wednesday the 16th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

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26 thoughts on “Blog Post 11: On The Road Again

  1. Rebekah Clapham
    The Road 136-193

    For this blog post I want to focus specifically on the scene on pages 188-189, as it seems to further bring up questions of ethics, animality and inhumanity. In this scene, it is somewhat unclear what is happening. I am not sure if this is a dream or if the man and the boy are watching this happen. McCarthy describes a boy (around the same age as THE boy) standing at the edge of a winter field “among rough men.” The boy being described watches the men open up the rocky hillside bringing “to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number. Collected there for a common warmth.” The men precede to pour gasoline on the snakes and burn them alive, “having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be.” The snakes wriggle in pain as they are burned alive but “as they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and writhe and blacken.” After doing this, the men “go home to their suppers.” Because there is no further description of these events, and the men go home to suppers (in a world where that concept no longer exists) this makes me think this scene is a dream, specifically the man’s dream, or the man’s memory of something in his past, symbolic of his point of view of what is happening in the world. His dream seems to represent the terror and powerlessness he feels being surrounded by the evil of the “bad guys.” It also represents the man’s strong desire to protect the boy (like the boy standing on the outside of the field) from being exposed to the evil and monstrosity in human beings, yet he also knows this exposure is inevitable. The man seems desperate to preserve the boy’s pure, innocent soul, perhaps because for him, the boy and his naivety and youth represent a hope for the future of humanity. If the boy loses that pure goodness and sense of ethics and humanity, the man will lose hope in the future as well as in the human population.
    Also, because snakes typically represent deceitfulness, slyness, and the overall downfall of man (from The Garden of Eden), the serpents specifically seem representative of the evil within humans. The fact that the men kill the snakes represents the man’s desire and general human desire to want to kill that inner evil and be a “good guy.” The line “having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be” when describing why the men burned the snakes seems to symbolize an instance of humans trying to confront evil, yet failing to destroy it. Because evil is so complex and deeply rooted within, the men seem to only have an image of what evil is, and they destroy that image, but they do not successfully destroy the actual existence of evil. Thus, even though I think the man believes that he has destroyed the mass of evil serpents within him, his dream suggests otherwise—his evil is still within him, lurking beneath the surface. It is also significant that the snakes are “mute” seemingly signifying the idea that this evil within us is often unacknowledged and suppressed. It also suggests that we tend not to be aware of our own capabilities, anger, and evil and that it takes special circumstances to reveal these darker aspects of our character we did not know existed within us. This scene makes me think that something is going to happen in the novel to the man and the boy that prompts the man to confront the evil within himself.

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  2. A sociological view on social norms and groups
    I thought that in this section an important interaction was with the old man they encounter on the road. The son shows compassion towards this old man in a world where sharing food and shelter is very detrimental to one’s own survival. In this post-apocalyptic society with few people and no societal rules, the distinctions between “good” and “bad” people have dissipated into just “bad guys”, merging everyone else into a group of not “bad guys”, including the father and son. Rather than our societal distinctions of being “good” and making efforts to improve society, in this society there is only the separation of oneself from the outgroup of “bad guys”, which the father and son have to continuously remind themselves of.
    When the father and son encounter the old man walking along the road, the son’s kindness towards the old man, seen as normal in our society, is overtly nice in their society. The son deviates from the post-apocalyptic societal norm of solely fending for oneself or one’s group to give resources to someone else. The father and old man describe the boy as being like an angel or a god (172) in his overt compassion for others, or rather that he “believes in God” (174) rather than being one himself. The boy’s compassion only extends so far though, for he understands that they cannot continue to care for the old man, and when they part ways “the boy never looked back at all” (174). This shows that the boy in his optimistic youth still has traces of goodness that the father and old man have long forgotten, but the boy’s ability to not look back show the effects of his environment on his inherent goodness.

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    • I actually think the environment effect on the boy’s “inherent goodness” may extend further than we think. His ability to not look back, shows his ability to be simply satisfied with having helped at all – especially someone already much older than either him or his father. He realizes the extent of his goodness in what is in relation to. Earlier, when seeing a boy his age or a baby, he agonizes over loosing both small lives for days; he says he would have shared half his food. He sees innocence and the ability to put compassion in those before it is too late. Originally, he does want to travel with the man, but he later realizes the difficulties and truth regarding this choice when he decides not to turn back.

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  3. I want to dive into the role of the boy because the further I read, the more complex his character becomes. Though the boy and his father both have the role of the sane survivor, the boy is the only one that exudes a saint-like quality. The boy could be a representation of Jesus by the way he is aware of the disturbing qualities of humanity, yet he remains calm and is eager to spread kindness to anybody, even when it might end up hurting him in the end. The boy is an optimist, and his father is a pessimist. Though the father is the one helping them survive and is scavenging for food, the boy is the one who makes the father want to live and keep going because he brings light into the father’s life. The man is often surprised by the boy’s optimism and sanity because the boy’s reactions almost seem inhuman, which is why the boy seems saint-like. For example, when the boy and his father come across a devastating sight of burned humans on the side of the road, the boy gazes at it undisturbed. “‘It’s okay Papa.’ ‘It’s okay?’ ‘They’re already there.’ ‘I don’t want you to look.’ ‘They’ll still be there.’ He stopped and leaned on the cart. He looked down the road and he looked at the boy. So strangely untroubled. ‘Why dont we just go on,’ the boy said. ‘Yes. Okay’” (191). The boy is so mature and understanding of the situation and is optimistic, which is a difficult feeling to have during a moment like this, and helps his father move on. Another example of the boy’s optimism is when he and his father find an old man on the side of the road who is starving. The boy asks his father to feed the old man, to which the father is reluctant, but the boy talks his father into helping the feeble man. “‘Maybe we could give him something to eat.’ He stood looking off down the road. ‘Damn,’ he whispered. He looked down at the old man. Perhaps he’d turn into a god and they to trees. ‘All right,’ he said” (163). The father thinks about how “he’d turn into a god and they into trees,” without clarifying who “he” is. Perhaps the father is referencing the boy and how the boy’s selflessness and benevolence is god-like, making him and the old man seem like inanimate trees.
    I think that it is interesting that the boy is the “god-like” character instead of his father. Older people are usually portrayed to be the wise and protecting ones while the youths are rambunctious and unempathetic. The boy, however, seems to be the wisest in this situation and is the guiding person in the relationship. The father provides the basic necessities of survival, but the boy provides the energy and willingness to continue. The boy’s optimism might be the reason why they are surviving for so long. Could this be a statement that children are the ones who hold the world? That children are the ones who see lightness instead of darkness? Maybe it is a twist on the cultural expectation that the older generation is wiser than the youths.

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    • I agree with your argument that “though the boy and his father both have the role of the sane survivor, the boy is the only one that exudes a saint-like quality” and that the boy seems representative of Jesus. I also agree that the “boy’s selflessness and benevolence is god-like.” Because the boy is so saint-like and representative of a higher, godlier power, I find it interesting that in this section of the reading the boy gets very sick. I am not sure what the boys getting sick symbolizes but it seems to be an important moment that makes the father question his faith and his reasons for staying alive. I also agree with your statement that “the boy is the one who makes the father want to live and keep going because he brings light into the father’s life.” This seems to relate to our discussion about the mother and her selfishness for committing suicide. While one can definitely view the mother and her abandonment of her son as selfish, one can also view it as not selfish as she ultimately she wanted to kill the boy as well in order to save him from this horrible world. The father, however, wanted to keep the boy alive, which I believe can be viewed as more selfish than the mother’s behavior. The mother wanted to save the boy from having to suffer, while the father seems to want to keep the boy alive for companionship. I think the father is afraid of death (he does not seem to want to die) but he is also terrified of living alone. Thus, the father keeps the boy alive to suffer in this world because he fears isolation and loneliness. Therefore, I think you can argue the father’s actions are more selfish than the mother’s to some degree.

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  4. A common theme that appears in this section of The Road which stuck with me is the role of ethics, particularly between what is referred to as the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” The boys reaction to the pain of others that they witness along the road, is an example of how empathy and inherent goodness is an innate trait born within us. For example, when the boy and his father come along the old man on the road, the boy, without hesitation, responds with “He’s scared, Papa… Maybe we could give him something to eat” (163). The boy is growing up in a world where the role models around him neglect empathy— their soul purpose in and goal in life is survival. Because the man’s main goal is the protection of his son, this makes me neglect the feelings of strangers he meets along the road even more, out of obligation to ensure that his son makes it through to see the next day. The boy’s empathy is inherently within him, even in a world where he is unable to learn this trait through observation, as most children do in our true society, today. This idea makes me want to discuss the idea of good versus evil further. Can you truly call those who have different goals from your own (such as survival) as evil? Is the boy more empathetic than the others in the novel due to his young age, or because he never saw a world other then the corrupted one he lives in now?

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    • It is unusual that the boy lives in such a corrupt world yet he is the most mature and empathetic of all the characters. His father was able to see life before the world started to deteriorate and replicate a post-apocalyptic society, however the father has less morals than the boy. The boy has never seen a world without total anarchy, yet the boy is so empathetic and caring he appears to be a saint. As you have explained, the boy wants to feed an old man even though he and his father are running out of food for themselves. The boy’s benevolence is surprising, yet who did he learn absolute kindness from? Not from his father for the boy always disagrees with him, not from his mother because she committed suicide, and especially not from the world around him. Is benevolence and kindness cultivated when the world starts to decay from corruption, or is kindness an inherent trait? In addition to this question, which I think will only be answerable by the end of the novel, it is unfortunate that the benevolent character is a young boy instead of a young girl. As a society, we are so used to the story where the man fixes all of the problems and is the last one standing in a world of survival, but this is unrelated to your post. I just wanted to bring up how unfortunate it is that the good-natured being is male.

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    • I agree with your evaluation of the good and bad guys in relation to the son because the son wants what is best for others since he doesn’t think for himself. On the other hand, the father wants what is best for his son, not thinking about himself. This shows the amount of care that each of the characters have for the world that they live in. Everyone has their own way of surviving in this world and the father chooses to not care for anyone but his son in order to survive.

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  5. There were multiple events that struck me when reading this section of the road. The first was on page 153-154 when the father is telling his son “Maybe he understood for the first time that to the boy he was himself an alien. A being from a planet that no longer existed. The tales of which were suspect. He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.” This really stuck me since it seems that the father is telling his son that what is going on is so vastly different than the previous world that they lived in. The father is telling his son about the “tales” of the previous world before all the destruction. The word tales really jumped out at me since it is almost like the father doesn’t even believe that he lived in the same world before the apocalypse. Maybe the father thinks he was dreaming and that he had always be living in the post-apocalyptic world but only realized it now.
    Another quote that struck me was on page 170, “There is no God and we are his prophets.” I believe the man is suggesting that there is only one world and that it is a very sad and hopeless place. What I am trying to understand is what the man means when he says we are his prophets. The only thing I can think of is that the only place God exists is within ourselves rather than all around us.

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    • I think you make some good points in your post here. I think to further your argument on the remembering of the past and its significance, we should think of it as this memory and destruction are intertwined within the man’s head. As he thinks and reminds himself of the past the more he wants to return to it. This longing for the past sometimes drives him away from the task at hand which is every day survival in a apocalyptic world. He wants to go back to this place and yet when he thinks of the past all it does is depress him even further because those things do not exist anymore.
      The religion and spiritual side of your post was interesting as well. I think this plays in quite well with the idea of memory and past. He seemed to at one point or another believed that god was a thing. Now he questions it because why would this happen if there was a god. Similarly, the past seems to hold this idea of beauty and spirituality while the present, in the novel, only offers bleak and suffering people and things all around the US.

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  6. Jessica Pavia
    Blog Post 11

    For this blog post, I’d like to focus on the passage that starts at the end of 153 and continues to the top of 153. Here the father explicitly says what we’ve been hinting at as a group–especially when talking about the Coca-Cola can. Cormac writes the father understanding “for the first time that to the boy he was himself an alien. A being from a planet that no longer existed. The tales of which were suspect. He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well.” We, as a class, have been talking about the father’s want to explain his old world to his son, but not knowing whether that was the right move. The son already has a concept of right from wrong, and that the world was not always like this; but would it only worsen his psyche to explain just how different? I think especially as a father of a young son, the narrator struggles with humanity and morality. In a sense, not explaining everything to his son is a form of lying. But at the same time, knowing the truth of his reality would be far too depressing and overwhelming. The child seems to understand death and the closeness of it, but what if he knew that long ago, you didn’t have to fear for your life everyday? That you lived in once place with a roof over your head and warm sheets. I think this is what the father struggles with the most. Even in today’s world, parents struggle with how to tell their children about the world and violence and poverty.
    What furthers the difficulty is a layer of what seems to be selfishness: a want to not dig up the past for his own sake. He considers himself “an alien,” and cannot recall the past without “constructing the loss” for himself as well. When they find the bunker, “some part of him wished they’d never found the refuge.” As much as the father fears telling his son about the past, he fears remembering it himself. Unlike his son, the man does not have ignorance on his side and lived through the world’s transition into desolation. The past world is far too tangible for him, and his determination to stay alive comes from focusing on the now and his son. Yet from a mental health standpoint, it’s not healthy to try and forget/resist the past. So with such right versus wrong torment, the man’s internal narration reveals just how unsure he actually is. How everything around him is truly so fragile and unstable.

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  7. “Okay” plasters the man and boy’s dialogue throughout McCarthy’s novel, The Road. The word “Okay” is an adverb, adjective, noun and can also be a verb when used with a noun; it has various grammar functions and throughout McCarthy’s novel it has even more verbal indications.
    The man asks the boy to “hold the lamp” (137) because he tells them that, “This is what the good guys do. They keep trying,” (137) and the boy responds with a simple, “Okay,” (137). The man outrightly tells his son the nature of a “good guy,” and the boy does not question it. When the man declares a factual statement, the boy takes his father’s word which portrays the man in a larger role than just a parent, but also a teacher. As his sole companion, the boy learns everything through his father including fragments of sayings that he and his father can hardly remember. For example, when the boy comments on his bath by stating “Warm at last,” (147) or when the boy asks about their “long term goals” (160) the man wonders where the boy learned such phrases, it is not until later that the boy says, “You [the man] said it,” (160). The boy tracks the man’s words and locks them into his memory no matter how far back. “Okay” often shows the amount of trust the boy has towards his father, towards every aspect of life except the ones that matter most to him: ethics.
    Earlier, the father tells boy that they will survive with only water, the boy again responds with another, “Okay,” (101). However, this time the boy is asking about death. The man says, “You think I might lie to you about dying,” (101), the boy responds, “Yes,” (101). Death is surely inevitable, but it is usually neither factual nor predictable. McCarthy makes death easily foreseeable. The boy has had one experience beforehand with death: his mother. Though the boy is born into a dead world, when a living thing then dies he cannot handle it, because he does not know how to grieve. Death cannot be “Okay” to the boy, having never experienced it properly. So later on, when the father states, “Okay means okay. It means we do not negotiate with each other,” (165) and the boy immediately questions the definition of the word “negotiate,” McCarthy shows the reader that nothing else can be entirely okay, because they live in primarily dead world where the boy cannot accept death.

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    • I think you propose a really interesting point of how isolated the boy is in his relationships with other people. The man was born in normal society and was socialized and learned things from other people, but the boy is solely reliant on the man to learn absolutely everything about how to exist. Everything that the boy knows has come from the man, because he hasn’t had the opportunity to really interact with other people. This puts so much pressure on the man to intellectually equip the boy for a world that the man himself is not fully equipped to deal with. The man has no education on how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, so how can he teach the boy how to grow up in such a world? Their relationship is based on trust and understanding, prompting the need to say “Okay” and confirm every piece of information the man gives the boy. Without this confirmation, their social contract based on the boy’s blind acceptance of the man’s interpretation of the world is threatened.

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  8. In this section of The Road, the essence of survival is prominent with all the new challenges that arises and have to be faced as they move along the road. As we begin the section, the man and the boy find a stash of canned goods, drinks, kitchenware and a place to stay for a little while. This was a few days after they ran out of food and was starting to go hungry. People may call this luck and others may say that they deserved it after putting up with the difficulties of not eating for a while. While they were in the house, the items they had access to seemed like luxuries in this time period because most of these items were nonexistent or very scarce in this dead environment. Even though these items are everyday commodities to us, the father and son are enjoying them as if they only have access to it for only one time in their life.This portion of the novel is sending a message that things we have access to today might not be available tomorrow because we never know what may happen within a short time span. As we read on, the boy and the father seem so happy and the calmest they will be throughout the rest of the story. Once they leave, they wont have access to this amount of resources until they reach their destination or die. The idea of evolution is also prominent here because the boy is asking more specific and related questions on where and how they are travelling because he is experiencing and encountering scenes that are relevant to why they are travelling away from the dead world. As time goes on, he is becoming more aware of the situation that they are in.

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    • I really like your interpretation about how we can’t take anything for granted and that we must appreciate what we have now because in a blink of an eye, it can be gone. Even though we can’t fathom a post apocalyptic world, we can use these ideas in our everyday life. I do agree that the boy is becoming more aware of the situation that he and his father are in. He’s no ordinary 9 or 10 year old now, he is able to think for himself and realize what is going on around him.

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  9. One big idea that I took away from this section of the reading was the idea of compassion and how that relates very well to the ethics and survival ideas we discussed in class. The boy is always so giving in a world that he has known all his life to be such a cruel and disgusting world. He is like a golden child, feeding the homeless on the street, just out of the goodness of his heart, he is represents the very idea of what it is to have compassion for others. This can be seen in the exchange with the boy and his father on pages 162-163. McCarthy shows it in this exchange, “Maybe we could give him something to eat… All right, he [the father] said” (163). The diction in which the boy speaks shows how he doesn’t even truly need to ask if it is alright to give the man food, but simply that it would be the right thing to do and we should give this man food. In the idea of survival and a dog-eat-dog world, most people would only think of themselves, while this boy, innocent and not judging, teaches his father a way to look at the world through a innocent lens. He wants no harm and wants to only spread compassion to others. While this is his mindset, the fathers is the complete opposite, always worried about every little thing. These two then create a great pair made by McCarthy. In another instant, the boy keeps repeating, “He’s scared, Papa (162). The boy simply wants to help and give love to every stranger he meets along the way. As the novel progresses though, we see only compassion from the boy it seems. McCarthy shows innocence and compassion together which starts to distort the view. These things put together and the boy only knowing the world though these eyes it makes sense why he is so nice. The father knows what this world truly is though and tries to teach the boy how it really works. But in time he knows the boy will learn one way or the other and pushes along on their journey.

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    • Interesting…Ethics and the break down of emotional connection is something that I am picking up here. the son makes up for his father’s apathy. Are there other aspects of their lives that the son makes up for? It is one thing to care for another person but another entirely to show that you care under different circumstances. The quote from page 162 suggests that the boy is not blinded by fear and it doesn’t stop him from showing what we consider in this time as basic human kindness. Could this be seen as the son attempting to fight the system being forced on him as well? Human nature to resist being conformed?

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  10. Reading further into The Road, the boy seems to to undergo some character development, especially in the section we read for today. When the man and boy are on the train, McCarthy notes a difference between the two protagonists. He states, “After a while they both looked just looked out through the silted glass…If they saw different worlds what they knew was the same. The train would sit there slowly decomposing for all eternity and that no train would ever run again” (180). As we’ve discussed, the boy and the man have significantly different views of the world, the boy being innocent to the nature of this world without morals, and the man learning to adapt. After encountering the bitter old man on the road however, there seems to a slight, but potentially significant, change in the boy. We’ve seen the boy go out of his way to show love and compassion in a world that has been stripped of any sort of human nature, but here, the old man is bitter and ungrateful, and refuses to thank the boy for his generous offer as he wouldn’t have given him his food. Here the boy truly witnesses his first interaction with someone that’s not his father, only to encounter the harsh animalistic nature of the man, without faith and waiting to die.
    Where as we’ve seen doubt from the boy before, when talking to his father, it’s stated, “I always believe you./I don’t think so./Yes I do. I have to.”(185). It’s heartbreaking to read, but this seems to be the point where the boy has loses a part of his innocence. It’s significant that he has to believe his father, either in that his father has been proven right and that the world really doesn’t hold “human” people anymore, or that in order to deal with the grips of reality, he has to force his faith. It seems tragic, but at the same time may mark a significant connection with the boy and his father. Maybe the coming of age in this world, is losing one’s sense of natural optimism, as it seems a lot of people do in our own world in different ways.

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    • I agree that as the novel comes to a close the boy seems to have grown in some way. However, he never loses his initial need to help others. Despite learning something about the world, he still keeps wanting to help others even when they aren’t grateful. There’s a part much later in the passage where someone steals their supplies. After running after this man, the father threatens to kill him and makes him strip down to nothing. All the while the boy is crying and telling his father to stop. Even though this man stole their supplies and left them to die, the boy cannot leave him to his death. No matter how much he learns, the boy never loses his innocence and “goodness.” I’m not entirely sure why or how, but he remains vigilant even when his father–the one person he has to learn from–doesn’t. This little kid is incredible to read.

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  11. In The Road I often think about, at what point would I consider suicide if I was living in this world? For me this is a sort of mental excursive of empathy and a measure of how depressing the world appears to be at a given moment, but I also think it is a great metric for the characters loss of humanity. At one point where I felt this sort of sensation of a complete loss of humanity in the story was when the father decided they couldn’t live much longer in the bunker. It says, “(he) gaze one more time at this tiny paradise” (150) and that is a terribly sad moment. This bunker they find is truly the most perfect scenario that a person could hope for in that world, but even then it won’t last, it still has its flaws. Even when they find somewhere that has what they need, the main characters are still just living from one deus ex machina to another, never really able to take agency or to find stability in this world. This thought feels more dehumanizing than any individual event that one could see in the world. It seems that in a modern society humans are seeking stability and what gives us our humanity is our ability to take actions that are not purely based around our survival. The thing that separates us from animals is the fact that we have time to think about things besides our survival, so in this moment it is revealed that the characters completely lack the ability to ever stop thinking about survival. Later on page 150 they talk about how “papa” always has to be on lookout, this feels like a strong reference to his inability to ever relax, to ever be a human.

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    • I agree with you, in that as I am reading, I too am wondering to myself— what would I do if I were in this situation? In my opinion, the subject of suicide is so drastically different in this world than it is in our world. Suicide in our world is rarely looked at as noble, or brave, where as in my opinion, the wife’s suicide could be potentially looked at this way in the novel. Still, the man judges her harshly for it; he sees those who are “bad guys” as those who give up. I think that your animal/human compassion is very interesting. It is true that in this post-apocalyptic world, the characters are hardly able to think about anything else other than their own survival. Even something as human as the father and boy’s love and connection towards one another is based around survival. When the boy asks his father “What’s the bravest thing you ever did?” he responds with “Getting up this morning” (272). The reason the two of them find the heart inside them to wake up each morning is largely dependent on their devotion and love for one another.

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    • Hi Max! After reading your response, I noticed that while reading the Road, I go through very similar thought processes when thinking about life and death. I always wonder at what point will love not be strong enough to keep me alive, and I would think that the devastation of the world around me would be enough to want me to kill myself. I also often think about how that changes depending on whether you are the father or the son in the relationship. I think that the kind of love that they feel for each other is very different, so I often think that it is more likely for the kid to commit suicide than for the father.

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  12. The class discussion on Friday really made me focus on morality as I continued my reading of “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. One section that I would like to further analyze through this new lens is one of the dialogues between the father and the son that happen in page 128-129. The first things I noticed that is significant in this passage is that they are eating “the last of the apples”. This is an illusion to the bible, and the story of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. This brings us back to the idea that we discussed in class about the future of the human race. As the dialogue progresses, the son than asks the father if they would “ever eat anybody” (Cormac 128), to which the father answers no. This begs the questions or right or wrong- it makes the reader think about whether or not, for survival, it is acceptable to engage in cannibalism. Even though it is likely the reader would say this is a violation in a morality code, it still puts the reader in a situation of questioning what is right and wrong, and whether or not we can violate morality for the purpose of survival. The most interesting part in the dialogue, however, is when the father and the son refer to themselves as the “good guys”. This specific phrase really made me question the relativeness of their assumption. If the world is stripped of morals and ethics, especially in light of an apocalypse, what does it even mean to be a “good guy”. By the way the father and the son act, it seems like they don’t really know the answer to that question either. And furthermore, it feels like they are still limited to the moral compass that was given to them in a world prior to an apocalypse, and they are being forced to change these notions as the world around them because less and less like the world they used to live in. Finally, the last interesting aspect of this dialogue is when they talk about “carrying the fire”. I believe that the fire here serves as a metaphor for humanity and the values attributed to human life. What I mean by this is that one human beings conquered fire, that’s when homo sapiens became the dominant species, and as a result, social constructs and moral compasses began being developed that eventually developed into our society. By saying that they are carrying the fire, they mean that they are still acting and performing like humans in a pre-apocalyptic world did.

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    • I absolutely agree with everything being said here. Something I find interesting, is the metaphor about carrying the fire. Although we don’t know exactly what devastating disaster wiped out the human race, the torch seems ironic considering all of the other appearances of fire in this novel. We’ve witnessed a world covered in ash, and flashbacks involving the land and people on fire. Perhaps this McCarthy’s way of saying that the “fire” of human nature can easily run out of control and destroy everything in its path. With our worlds destruction of the environment, and loss for the importance of life, it’s clear to see where this idea would come from.

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  13. Iona Herriott
    Blog post

    The lack of humanity in this novel is something that i would like to write on in this blog post. Not just the humanity in regards to responses to others in need but also actions taken when responding to moment of danger. For the responses to the needs of others , I find it necessary to examine how often biblical references are used. since men create Gods to find safety and reasoning for good deeds, its interesting how in these dark times in the book, such as finding the people in the cellar(110), calls to Jesus. maybe it is overthinking it but given the circumstances it could be seen as a form of prayer. Prayer for what exactly is the next question? Just for Him self and his son? For the lack of humanity in the world around them? I do not believe anything in this novel is written by coincidence nor to just be seen as clever. Page 147 i think of as a very biblical scene as well because of how the man washes his son, just as Jesus washed Peter in order to make him clean. Again this is something that could be seen as just a ” father caring for his child” but i believe there is something else to it. Humanity with the influence of holy traditions. the boy is his fathers saving grace, his reason for living. Looking at this novel, while everything has gone to “hell” so to speak , the father seeks a safe haven for him and his child. He attempts to return to the basics of human survival in finding food, shelter and a higher power to serve in whatever way he feels appropriate.

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  14. For this reading response I want to focus on the role of ethics during post-apocalyptic period. The old man that emerged later in this book, supposedly named Ely, warrants the reader that moral codes have no place in this world, having moral codes will only make survival more difficult. The man and the boy have a long history of avoiding contact with anyone, any person is considered a threat to their survival. However, the boy has managed to convince his father into helping Ely by feeding him from what might be the last piece of cracker, stew, or cup of coffee they will ever have. This situation challenges the beliefs that the man has and positions him in a difficult situation. While regarding the boy’s intentions, the man has to consider other elements that might be caused by their decision such as the depletion of food and risk of being found by others. Finally the man agrees, “Okay means okay. It doesn’t mean we negotiate another deal tomorrow” (165). Although helping another man goes against the entire rule they have created to survive, the man agrees to the boy’s intentions. The boy’s sympathy towards the old man suggests ethical codes only remain in the those that haven’t seen the juxtaposition between the old world and the post-apocalyptic world. Before Ely ventures he had a conversation with the man. The man said, “You should tank him you know […] I wouldn’t have given you anything” The man asks Ely to thank his boy because it was all the boys idea to help him. However, the man suggests that he may not thank the boy: “I wouldn’t have given him mine” (173). Ethical code tends to remain in those who haven’t had the experience living in the old world, particularly the boy. The boy only want to help, share, and be nice to others, but McCarthy’s assumes moral codes will disappear in desperate times, specially when it is for survival.

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