Thoughts on The Road

20 Dec

So, if you have been reading my blog for a long time then you know that I love Cormac McCarthy. Cormac and I, we could be best friends. I could talk science and he could talk literature, or we could sit on porch swings and admire the country.

We recently, finished reading The Road for American Literature. There is so much in my paper that I could not mention.


Stories of Courage and Justice 

I think that this is important for the man and the boy as they travel along the road. The man tells these stories in order to help the son understand his role in life such as being a “good guy” and “carrying the fire”.

Fact: The original title of The Road was called The Grail. This comes from the idea of Grail Narratives. (think: King Arthur and ties into these stories of justice and courage.)

“The father’s love for his son becomes the boy’s longing for his father and for community with others. That longing is depicted as a boy’s journey through a physically broken world in a relentless attempt to find that other whose pain and whose joy he can here. In a world poisoned by greed, dissociation, and despair, longing may itself be a form of redemption” (234).

The boy craves a normal world, even though he knows nothing of what our world is like. This longing for goodness might show a form of redemption for this broken world.

Does anyone know what “Carrying the fire” means? 

I asked my professor this the other day, because he is supposed to know everything, right? He is my professor and has written an article on The Road. So, he should know what this means, but he does not. We ended up discussing other things in the novel. I believe he mentioned that it has to do with the stories but I could wrong.

This is what I think, that the what McCarthy is saying is that there is something that is beautiful that we cannot put into words because their is so much truth and beauty in it. That this native statement of “Carrying the fire” symbolizes that goodness will continue on. Is there something more to this?

I like to think that everything that is going on in The Road, that is just a father and son traveling along the road and that there is something beautiful about the father’s desire to protect is son. That grace and beauty. Like the quote in my professor article (that I might get in trouble for posting):

“By creating a place of grief and ash, McCarthy seems to be searching for the origins of human goodness. By maintain a focused look at the origins of grace and beauty, he discovers what the ethical foundation of humanity might be: the simple words of a father for his son, “I have you,” illuminate a small hope in an otherwise dark narrative. Familial relationships preserve human goodness a long as a father is able to say, “I have you,” and a child is able to believe his words” (48-49).

The quote refers to this quote:

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you” (54).

That as long as the father is able to say, “I have you” meaning that as long as these stories stay true and that the father can continue to tell them. There is something extremely moving about that. That as long as the son is able to preserve this goodness and that the father also could preserve this goodness. There is something amazing about that idea. That redemption can them be gained.


There is also this idea of breath such as the breath of God (the Holy Spirit), I think that this is important to look at. Towards the end of the novel, the women who becomes a surrogate mother for the boy teaches him how to pray but the boy prays to the father because it is easier and that is what he promises his father.

“She said that the breath of God was his breath yet through it pass from man to man through all time” (286).

That as long as the boy remembers his father, this is away of honoring his memory and that the boy is making an effort to talk to God through his father. This becomes another effort in which the continue to “carry the fire”.

The idea of breath as plays an important role with the mother, she tells the father that:

“The one thing I can tell you is that you wont survive for yourself. I know because I would never have come this far. A person who had no one would be will advised to cobble together some passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love.” (57)

That as long as the father is able to continue this family unit and create some sort of family for the boy. If the father can continue to think about the boy as part of the family and that he can instill goodness into the boy. As long as the father has a connection to his son, he can be considered a “good guy”. The man will always  need the boy.

Just some thoughts.

Works Cited

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

Kilpatrick, Nathan. “Some Last Venture at the End of the World: Familial Quests and Identity Formation in The Road.” Literature and Belief 31.1 (2011): 39-50. Print.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. Print.


Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Thoughts on The Road

  1. Sara Katherine

    December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    My thoughts on “carrying the fire:”
    Personally, I think you’re on the right track. It’s like the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier or the Kennedy memorial. The honor and respect of those people will love on forever; it’s a way of saying we’ll never forget. Also, when I went to Europe, in the Netherlands in The Hague there is the World Peace Flame that we got to see. It’s also an eternal flame. Anyways, I don’t remember where I was going with this.

    This is a great post. Proud of you!

  2. Rachel

    December 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Interesting thought, I think that this influences my thinking more on what it means to “carrying the fire”. That as long as we light flames to remember those around us and those who have gone before us. This shows something about humanity, that goodness will always prevail over evil (light vs. dark). I think Dumbledore said it best, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I googled search pictures of the World Peace Flame and it has this feeling of comfort and home. That what is happening in life is going to be ok. We do see in The Road, the father and the boy having happy moments such as reading the stories of courage and justice or being around a fire side. Something to think about.


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