How does The Road service the theme of belonging?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a dreary picture is painted where belonging is a rare thing.  If you survived whatever event or series of events that occurred to create the wasteland that is presented, then usually, belonging is something that is as elusive to find as is survival.  If you "belong," it is usually amongst two main groups:  the barbaric cannibals that roam the country in hoards, looking for lone surivivors to kill, or, the groups of people that the father and the son witness locked up in an abandoned house, that are slowly being harvested for meat.  It's pretty awful.  There are also vague rumors of other groups of people, civilized people, that are surviving together, but they only hear about this through the old man, and only in a very guarded way.  The son, adopted by the family at the end, might have found another place to belong also.

The father and the son are lucky, very lucky indeed to have each other.  Because the other exists, they belong.  As long as they have each other, they can fight through their existence.  Belonging is a gift that they give each other every day of their lives.  The father spends his days trying to teach his son how to survive in their world, how to belong in the eventuality that he might one day die.  He hopes that his son can feel a sense of belonging in that world, even if he isn't around.

I hope that those thoughts helped a bit; good luck!

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of belonging revolves around the relationship between father and son.  Even though there has been a severe disbanding of all social orders in the wake of landscape of desolation, the father and son experiences the belonging between one another to help restore some level of values and structure to this world.  The father teaches the son to be generous towards others and maintains the relationship with him to develop the idea of belonging.  We can sense that at some point, there was a level of belonging shared with the wife, but now that has translated to father and son.  The ultimate hope would be that this shared belonging is something that can be replicated by others in this new setting.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the book The Road the father and son are traveling a road alone in a world that has undergone a cataclysmic disaster.  There are almost no known people anymore.  Those that they come across are few and far between and alone with the exception of the people who travel in groups and kill other people for food.

Frequently the two talk about having each other.  The boy is fearful that he will lose his father and often wakes up calling for him.  His father is also fearful of losing his son and states this when his son becomes feverish.  Each one has the other to rely on.  The mother/wife ended her life because she found no joy or hopes in the world and could not mentally go on without hope.  The father and son give each other "the fire."  After reading through the story several times, I believe the fire is the hope and will to go on.

The son often asks his father about other people.  He does not want it to be just him and his father in the world as the only two good guys.  Even as the father lays dying the reader worries about the son because he will be alone.  The only hope and salvation that comes in the end is that a good guy comes along to bring the boy to be with him and his family.  The reader is left with no hope for a better existence for the people on the earth, but there is some relief that the boy is not alone.