In many literary explorations of apocalypse scenarios, the breakdown of government is often one of the early aspects of the dissolution of civilization. In The Road, the timeline of how much time has elapsed since the events that initiated the breakdown is not very clear, but it is obvious that the culture has changed irrevocably. Not only has government disappeared, but the structure of the country is no longer relevant: that there were once "states" is no longer important. Martial law is hardly even the way to describe it: most people are behaving in savage, selfish ways, desperate for food and in some cases reduced to brutal examples of cannibalism. The concept of state lines or property division is no longer pertinent in a world where there is no ownership. It is truly an "every man for himself" situation wherein people without scruples take what they can from anyone who is weaker or disadvantaged.