In The Road by Cormac McCarthy, what makes the relationship between the boy and his father so powerful and poignant? How do they maintain their affection for and faith in each other in such brutal...
In The Road by Cormac McCarthy, what makes the relationship between the boy and his father so powerful and poignant? How do they maintain their affection for and faith in each other in such brutal conditions.
The brutality evident throughout The Road is somewhat tempered by the relationship between father and son and their quest to find purpose and assign meaning to their lives. Even in the depths of despair, the "good guys" are always there. Not everyone will eat each other - even if they are so hungry that they will probably die!
The boy does need reassurance from his father that they will never eat people "no matter what" and will always be the "good guys" and that there are others like them out there somewhere. He even asks about their "long-term goals." His faith however does not waver. " I always believe you....I have to."
The boy and his father have a relationship that transcends all boundaries and will endure beyond the father's seeming cruelty. The boy does not always understand his father's decisions but his trust is absolute and he knows, without any proof being necessary, that his father is motivated by his need and desire to protect his son and make a future for him.
It is even more incredible as the boy does want to help others and disagrees with his father's singlemindness because helping others shows compassion and is proof that they have not become savages like so many others.
The boy is able to rationalize his father's choices but does remind his father of the consequences of his actions - "he's going to die."
The man tries to be honest with his son and knows he cannot promise that there is someone or something on the other side of the ocean, although he wants his son to believe it. He is torn though because he does not want to give his son false hope.
The "good guys," God, anyone might find them. The father will not send his son "into the darkness alone."
The son is almost like the father's conscience when the father becomes too focused on saving his son. It is the son who convinces the man to return the thief's clothes to him after the father almost kills the thief. He stops short because of his son's reactions. Even the thief is affected by the boy and almost sorry for having taken all their stuff. He realizes the extent of the relationship between the boy and his father and that the man will stop at nothing to save his son. The very sight of the boy is "very sobering to him."
The relationship between the boy and the man is changing at this point where they come across the thief as the boy must now start taking responsibility - hence his desperate pleas to his father to return the thief's clothing to him. it is no longer just the father who must "worry about everything."
As the father is slipping away and the boy wants to understand why he must be left behind, his father reminds him " You have my whole heart" which sums up their relationship.
The father and son's love for each other makes the relationship poignant because they live in such a harsh world. Their caring relationship is set in stark contrast to the cannibalizing brutality of the larger universe they occupy, where the markers of humanity have been turned to ash. The other people the father and boy encounter are alone and isolated, making their relationship all the more startling and compelling. Adding to the poignance is the boy's compassion for other people: he wants his father to reach out and help others even in these dire circumstances.
These characters function as allegorical. The father and son have no name: they are representatives of the last of humanity. They are any of us who would retain community and mutual caring in an apocalyptic situation. We could—and should—raise questions: Why are there no women representatives of humanity like the father and son? Does this represent hopelessness? Is it family—genetics, DNA—that hold the father and son together or some deeper, more universal human bond? Nevertheless, as we raise these questions we also appreciate the slim bit of humanity left that this relationship represents.