Interested to hear people's interpretations of the final paragraph in the book.
"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. you could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."
I actually read this final paragraph in a slightly different way. The focus on the mystery of nature and how there were things that were "older than man" made me think of the insignificance of man in the wide scheme of things. Nature was there before and nature will be there again, constant and unchanging as an eternal force, even when man seems to be dying out.
Alpha and Omega. The sea reminds the reader of the beginnings of life; the brook trout of clean, cold, fresh streams that have "vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming" underscore the Alpha of the world. But, these patterns on the trout are "of a thing that could not be put back": Omega. The end, for the maze cannot be solved.
An ode to what has been lost in the apocalypse. McCarthy picks out one complex piece of life and describes it in artistic detail, trying to give the reader a sense of everything that is gone for good, and the value that it had.