treat serif;”>You’re a college student. You’re reading the Arts section. You should by all accounts be an intelligent, capable person. So, the question is…have you read this yet?
Every issue The College Tribune will bring you a featured literary work that you should read in order to solidify your position as an intelligent, to-be-taken- seriously academic.
(If you’ve stumbled upon this section on your way to Sport, this goes for you as well!)
So get your spectacles out and read on.
The Road was released in 2006 to almost universal acclaim, winning the James Tait Black Memorial that year, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007. It was adapted to the screen in 2009, and in 2008 Entertainment Weekly named it the greatest novel, fiction or nonfiction, of the last 25 years. So much has been said about the Road that it is often easy to overlook at how much of a milestone it is in American modern fiction and a landmark in the post apocalyptic genre.
The Road chronicles the lives of a father and son, “The Man” and “The Boy”, in the wake of a nuclear cataclysm that has brought society to its knees, destroyed all natural ecosystems and has left the landscape desolate and inhospitable. The novel tracks the Man and Boys journey along the titular Road to the southern fringes of the United States, grasping to the belief that they will find shelter, warmth and “good guys”. Among their possessions are scavenged scrapes of food, ragged clothing and a pistol with only a single round. Along the way the pair witness the after affects of nuclear fallout and the horrors faced by those remaining. Tribes of nomadic cannibals stalk the highways, and the interactions the pair have with societies remnants explores the extreme actions taken by those in such unforgiving situations. Throughout the novel, the Man and the Boy can only rely on each other, and their exchanges highlight the truth of their self description as “carrying the Fire” for humanity.
Originally inspiration came to McCarthy whilst on a visit to El Paso, Texas with his young son, where he imagined what the city would look like in such a future, picturing “fires on the hill” and also thought about his son. These thoughts form the basis of the relationship between the Man and the Boy, which perfectly encapsulates a real world relationship. Their interactions and dialogue remains simple and yet expressive, with few words McCarthy is able to evoke their full emotions. The characterization of the Man in particular stands out, he is haunted by memories of his picturesque life before the fallout, his happiest days, and most of all his wife, who could not face the idea of life after the apocalypse. His entire existence is now focused on the teaching of his son on how to live in this environment, and ensures that he remains a moral example to his son, on how to live a just life on a world gone to ruin and despair.
The environment and landscape in which these characters inhabit is almost as important as them themselves. With this novel McCarthy shows us just much our society relies on the biosphere and how much we take it for granted. McCarthy constantly reminds the reader of the physicality of the environment, even providing an epilogue focusing on mediates on nature in the scarred and desolate environment.
Without a doubt this is McCarthy’s masterpiece, a novel of great scope that intimately focuses on the relationships between those closest to you, the struggles that are faced to protect these relationships, and how these relationships affect others. Perhaps the most noticeable facet in the reading of this novel is the brutally simplistic style constructed by McCarthy. With its sparse prose, McCarthy offers an uncluttered space in which he is able to freely explore emotions in an incredibly realized way. With this deceptively bare style McCarthy at once grabs the reader’s attention and with his precise dialogue ensures that every word has meaning. The Road is an emotionally shattering novel, with its bleak and twisted backdrop, numbing desperation is simply a page away. But this means that every bright moment, every time the characters see even a glimmer of hope, the reader cannot help but feel heartbroken. So, The Road, have you read this yet?