McCarthy's ending in The Road seems to be both hopeful and hopeless. Why do you think he ended the story in this way?

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The end of the novel The Road is quite confusing, especially with regards to the emotions it evokes in the reader. It gives hope in the form of a new family and the revelation that there are other sane people left in the world who are trying to find community...

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The end of the novel The Road is quite confusing, especially with regards to the emotions it evokes in the reader. It gives hope in the form of a new family and the revelation that there are other sane people left in the world who are trying to find community and safety. At the same time, however, it comes immediately after the boy loses his father—the one thing keeping him safe and looking out for him. This is a moment of hopelessness and despair followed immediately by a glimmer of hope.

McCarthy chose to show us these things, I think, as a way of giving a ray of hope in bleak times to show that, as the quote goes: "light comes with the morning." Essentially, no matter how desperate and hopeless your situation is, there is always something new around the corner; hopefulness can carry you through until you find it. For example, the boy finally found what he and his father were hoping for, even though his father was no longer around to witness it.

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This is a tough book to get through, isn't it?  I had to take breaks it was so depressing.  But the hopeful note at the end of the story, after I thought about it a while, suggests to me or represents that the struggle for humanity, and the overwhelming and driving will human beings have for survival carries on, even after the story is done.

McCarthy waits until the last few pages of the book to suggest that there are, after all, others like the man and his son, who have chosen to collect themselves and their families, protect them, and hold on to what makes them humans and not mere animals.  They are starting again, and the boy becomes a part of that at the end.

I think the line towards the end of the book about the man who takes the boy in after his father's death is especially telling. The man who comes to retrieve the boy suggests that there was considerable debate between the survivors he is with about whether to come get the boy or not.  And obviously the final decision is to rescue him.  This unselfish act, this most important of human gestures--saving a life--is a hopeful ending on more levels than just the rescue itself.

The hopelessness comes in that the struggle isn't finished, and the odds are long for humanity in general.  Nothing is "fixed" at the end, and we see no capacity for mankind to truly recover in the long term, but there is still hope that it can and will at some future point.

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