Compare how the man sees the world with how the boy sees it in The Road. What might it be like to never know about the world as it was and to grow up in ruins and ash?
"If they saw different worlds what they knew was the same."
Cormac McCarthy, The Road, Page 180
The Road traces the almost seemingly futile journey of a man and his son and includes an emotional mix of confusing images and the fight for survival.
The boy and his father have chanced upon an abandoned train which has sparked some excitement and trepidation in them both. This is significant for the boy who has spent much of his time afraid. He is also learning from his father to be cautious and look out for strangers although still being able to experience something interesting. The father is a little neurotic and worries about the future for his son but, having ensured that the train is safe, he allows himself to use his imagination a little and actually - unusually - enjoys the experience. He remains practical, however, saving some paper plates - the only thing left- maybe for warmth later.
Having explored the train they enter the train driver or engineer's compartment and the father puts his son on the driver's seat. He proceeds to make train noises but realises that they may have no meaning for the boy.
There is no emotion left in the father although he wants to reminisce about the past - and the reality of trains, long gone - but he is too tired, ill and dejected to even think about anything now. The excitement has passed and reality has hit home. The boy, too, does not seem, after his initial excitement, to have any recollection of trains or certainly shows no enthusiasm. The only reality for them both is the "waste of weeds" before them.
The train,"slowly decomposing" represents the stark future for them both despite the glimmer of hope from the man when he sat his son down in the locomotive. It is time to move on.
The boy, even though he must sacrifice food for himself, would still help others whereas the father would not. He only helped the old man because he was persuaded by his son. Both the father and son have similar purpose but their experiences of the past are different. The farther remembers looking up places on a map and tries to indicate their location but the boy wants to know about the sea.
They both are hopeful of reaching their destination, the ocean, but for very different reasons. The father knows he is ill and his son will be alone but he wants to give his son something of a future. The boy is fascinated by thoughts of the sea because it is something new and exciting to him. The father does try to give his son hope for the future when the son's dream foreshadows his father's death. The boy does still have trust in human nature and so the father explains to the son that there are "other good guys."
Life is hard for them both and the father thinks there must be something better for his son so, despite being ill, he wants to go on. He remembers a normal past and wishes his son could remember it. He knows though that if his son begins to rely on dreams of the past "that never was" or the future that "never will be" then he will have given up. He wants his son to make his own future - that is the only way to survive.