Enotes introduction reads,
The Road is McCarthy at the height of his powers. The father and son’s journey to “carry the fire”[a symbol of hope and life] is not only a testament to McCarthy’s love for his son but his faith in humanity.
In the aftermath of a global apocalyptic disaster, the son is born and, therefore knows no other world. The father tries to tell the boy how life was before, but the tales seem fictional to him. When the boy wishes to go as his dead mother has, the father chastises him. One day the man and boy walk down the black road, they hear a diesel truck pass them, but it stalls. The man grabs his pistol that has but three bullets in it. Then, an emaciated man appears unbuckling his belt. There is a confrontation between the father and the man, the father pointing the gun and the man quickly letting go of the belt and coming up quickly with a knife and grabbing the boy holding the knife at the child's throat,
The man had already dropped to the ground and he swung with him and leveled the pistol and fired from a two-handed position balanced on both knees at a distance of six feet. The man fell back instantly and lay with blood in his lap with no expression on his face at all. He shoved the pistol in his belt and slung the knapsack over his should and picked up the boy and turned him around and lifted him over his head and set him on his shoulders and set off up the old roadway at a dead run, holding the boy's knees, the boy clutching his forehead, covered with gore and mute as a stone.
After staggering for another half mile or so, the man drops to his knees and gently puts the boy down in the ashes and leaves,
He wiped the blood from his face and held him. It's okay, he said. It's okay....
This is my child, he said. I wash a dead man's brains out of his hair. That is my job. Then he wrapped him in the blanket and carried him to the fire.
The boy sat tottering....He kicked holes in the sand for the boy's hips and shoulders where he would sleep and he sat holding him while he tousled his hair before the fire to dry it. All of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms....
Finally the father and son reach their destination of the ocean., but it promises no more than where they have been. The man, who has become progressively sicker, after being shot in the leg by an arrow.
He [the boy] slept close to his father that night and held him but when he woke in the morning his father was cold and stiff. He sat there a long time weeping and then he got up and walked out through the woods to the road. When he came back he knelt beside his father and held his cold hand and said his name over and over again.
When a kind man comes along and tells the boy that he is carrying the fire, the boy goes with him. But, first, the boy wishes to say goodbye to his father:
He walked back into the woods and knelt beside his father. He was wrapped in a blanket as the man had promised and the boy didn't uncover him but he sat beside him and he was crying and he couldn't stop. He cried for a long time. I'll talk to you every day, he whisered and I won't for get. No matter what....
The boy keeps his promise.