The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s tenth novel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2007. The postapocalyptic work ostensibly marked a thematic shift in McCarthy’s corpus. His first novels—The Orchard Keeper (1965), Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), and Suttree (1979), set in the mountains of Tennessee—are often broadly classified as Southern Gothic. A later set of novels began with Blood Meridian: Or, The Evening Redness in the West (1985) and continued through The Border Trilogy (1999; includes All the Pretty Horses, 1992, The Crossing, 1994, and Cities of the Plain, 1998) and No Country for Old Men (2005). These novels explore decidedly Western themes and terrains. Physical landscapes are of primary importance to McCarthy, often suggesting the interiority and moral compass of his main characters. The Road marked McCarthy’s literary return to the southeast and explores themes, motifs, and concerns posed throughout the McCarthy canon.
In 2007, Oprah Winfrey selected The Road for Oprah’s Book Club, heightening favorable mainstream reactions to the novel. Significantly, The Road was the first McCarthy novel to receive both popular and academic appreciation. The book’s language is sparse yet poetic and philosophically motivated, and the text is composed not of chapters but of discrete, punctuated paragraphs that mirror the movements of the father and son on their journey.
The Road employs a third-person narration that is generally omniscient but that often lapses into a limited third-person perspective to develop the father’s internal despair. Stylistically resembling Suttree and The Crossing, the hinge novel of The Border Trilogy, The Road employs the narrative shifts that emphasize the protagonist’s moral compass, as well as the metaphorical nature of the titular road. The father and son journey, but their quest to...
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