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What is different about this excellent novel compared to other dystopian novels is that we are given no indication as to what has produced the dystopian world we are presented with. Other novels such as Margaret Atwood's brilliant Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood give a specific root cause of the disintegration of society. In the case of these novels it is a killer disease that has been unleashed and has decimated humanity. In the case of Alas, Babylon, it is a nuclear holocaust. Yet in The Road, no clear indication is given, which means there is no specific warning about, for example, the dangers of nuclear weapons or the engineering of diseases. However, what is clear is that now humanity has suffered this collapse, the novel shows that it has returned to levels of savagery that make the remaining humans resemble beasts more than human beings. The savage canibalism that humanity has sunk into shows that the veneer of civlisation is at best skin deep. Consider the inital description of what happens after the unspecified tragedy:
Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night.
The real warning of this novel then is that however civilised we feel we have become, we are animals at heart, and, when civilisation is taken away from us, we will act like animals to defend ourselves and ensure our survival--even if the price is our own humanity.
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