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In The Road by Cormac MacCarthy and regarding plot development, 1) why is the...

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konkonz | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 27, 2013 at 9:33 PM via web

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In The Road by Cormac MacCarthy and regarding plot development, 1) why is the narrative so slow moving and repetitive with little progression?

I need textual examples from the novel.

2) What are the most suspenseful parts in the story and why are they included?

3) Does this story involve more than a physical journey? (maybe psychological or spiritual)

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 28, 2013 at 8:32 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Road by Cormac McCarthy, the narrative is a very important part of the progression of the story. The environment is bleak, so severe that McCarthy wastes no time in introducing the reader to it. Nothing else holds any relevance, the past is not remembered favorably as it only brings back bad memories. It is necessary that the reader understands that only the present, the daily fight, can move this plot forward; the alternative is death because "when your dreams are of some world that never was or some world that never will be...then you'll have given up."  They carry on "solitary and dogged."

What may appear to be slow progression with a slow-moving and repetitive style is the very thing that cements the man and his son's position.  It actually speeds up the process as the reader is able to read many more pages than they may normally read in another novel. The reader becomes engrossed in the actual daily struggle:

 Can I ask you something? he said.

Yes. Of course.

Are we going to die?
Sometime. Not now.
And we're still going south.
Yes.
So we'll be warm.
Yes.
Okay.
Okay what?
Nothing. Just okay.
Go to sleep.
Okay.
I'm going to blow out the lamp. Is that okay?
Yes. That's okay.
And then later in the darkness: Can I ask you something?
Yes. Of course you can.
What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay.

McCarthy purposefully confuses the reader, making him or her reread certain parts for clarification when it is unclear who is speaking. In this style of writing, very minimal, anything considered superfluous is disregarded. Indicating who is speaking is unimportant, much like many of the items they would like to have with them but which are not completely necessary. Even names are unimportant when your focus is on hiding from cannibals! As for punctuation... All of this supports the story as the boy is becoming increasingly aware and the father becomes more unwell, making their relationship interdependent as "you forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget." 

Much of the narrative is in the third person and the reader is not required to use their own imagination to visualize the devastation. The narrative reveals everything about their plight in "the cold, autistic dark." Detail that is missing from the conversations is evident in the descriptions of the landscape, scattered with “charred and limbless trunks of trees.” It is necessary to use all their energy to survive and this style of narrative reveals that. The reader can actually imagine that it could be this way after such an event. It makes it believable. 

Please take care not to ask multiple questions as eNotes rules do not allow it. 

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