Conflict is a prominent theme in “The Road.” The symbol is the ashen landscape, the bands of marauding men. Whether conflict—in human societies or in other types of biological systems. The boy in this novel is a symbol of altruism. The complete desire to help others because it is the thing to do is voiced by the boy when he says, "Yes. But in the stories we're always helping people and we don’t help people" (p. 280). Another symbol is the canablils. They are symbolic of the end of civilization and the selfish behavior of the “bad guys,” theirs is the domain of survival at any cost. The father and son are “good guys.” They symbolize morality and the “rightness” of the way things should be.
The sextant and flares the father finds on the wrecked boat serve as important symbols in The Road. At one point navigators used sextants to traverse the seas, only now without stars (hope) to guide us, the beauty of the sextant becomes worthless. The flares directly relate to the notion of "carrying the fire."
Other interesting symbols include the can of Coke, the shopping cart, and several of the abandoned, crumbling houses.