Analysis of the Genre of McCarthy’s novel “The Road”

Analysis of the Genre of McCarthy’s novel “The Road”

Summary of the Novel

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world with the specific location possibly being the North American Continent. The two characters are a man and a young boy who is possibly his son based on the close bond that they have. The man’s sole mission seems to be to ensure the survival of the young boy from the different perils that roam about in this barren landscape. The threats that exist include a group of cannibals he calls ‘road agents’ as well as other solitary scavenging humans who may turn violent in a bid to survive. As the story progresses the two get to travel across the landscape constantly coming across reminders of what civilization used to be like. These reminders are in the form of tattered billboards and shells of houses that were once inhabited by humans.

The winter is rather harsh and this forces them to constantly seek shelter as well as daily sustenance. For protection the man always carries a pistol with him while they are outdoors. Whenever the boy remains outside alone he is left with the pistol. The pistol is hardly enough protection for the two of them given that it only has two bullets in its chamber. Because of this, the father has resolved that in the event that they are overpowered by road agents he would use one of the bullets to kill the son and at least protect him from the resultant torture. The old man however doubted if he could actually go through with the plan. As the story comes to an end so does the old man’s life and this is marked by pleasant memories of his wife. The story ends with the boy being adopted into another family of people who have ‘the fire’ in them (McCarthy).

The Genre of McCarthy’s “The Road”

The genre in which this story best falls into is that of post-apocalyptic fiction. It is first of all fiction since the story is largely based on the imagination of the author. It is highly unlikely for a cataclysmic event to occur and wipe out all forms of civilization and most of humanity. The nuclear war that allegedly took place too has its place in imagination more than reality because it is merely a speculation of how life on earth as we know it could suddenly come to end (Cooper, 220).

The reason why it is post-apocalyptic is the fact that the author’s presentation of the story constantly puts the mind of the reader in a position of juxtaposing the current events going on in comparison to the previous state of affairs. The first instance of this in the story is the fact that they do not need to refer to each other by name. It is conventional for parent s to call their children or younger children by name. The function of names in today’s society is to distinguish people given the fact that ambiguity will only bring about confusion when people are addressing each other. The ambiguity in this story however suggests that the number of people around is so small that names have ceased to have meaning.

Another reason why this story is post-apocalyptic is the reminders that the two main characters keep getting of how life used to be in the past before the nuclear fallout or whatever brought an end to civilization. The old man for instance keeps having flashbacks about his wife who escaped and committed suicide than face the harsh reality. At the same time they keep coming across shells of houses that used to accommodate people in the land they now walk across. The ageing and worn out bill-boards they come across also serve to remind them of what the previous world looked like (Ibarrola).

In their present world there are hardly any humans and many of the ones they come across are extremely hostile and capable of causing harm and possible death to them. While their life is presently punctuated by constant scavenging in grocery stores they come across, the people they meet are on the hunt for other humans who they will either eat or store up for later consumption. In the civilized world foodstuffs in the grocery stores were abundant and exchanged for money. Their present world however is lawless and this grants them a chance to scavenge whatever food they can.

Another instance of juxtaposition between the current world they inhabit and the one they lived in before is the relationship that people have with each other. Previously people preferred socializing as a means of survival. In their world however solitude seems to be one’s best bet at survival (Carlson, 50).

In conclusion it can be stated that the story best fits into the post-apocalyptic fiction genre because of the basing of the story’s plot on the author’s imagination coupled with the fact that it is set in a world that has just faced a major destructive period which wiped out nearly all civilization (Wielenberg, 2).

Works Cited

Carlson, Thomas A. “With the World at Heart: Reading Cormac McCarthy’s” The Road” with Augustine and Heidegger.” Religion & Literature 39.3 (2007): 47-71.

Cooper, Lydia. “Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as Apocalyptic Grail Narrative.” Studies in the Novel 43.2 (2011): 218-236.

Ibarrola-Armendariz, Aitor. “Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: Rewriting the Myth of the American West.” European journal of American studies (2011).

McCarthy, Cormac. The road. Pan Macmillan, 2009.

Wielenberg, Erik. “God, Morality, and Meaning in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.” Cormac McCarthy Journal 8.1 (2010): 1-16.

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