Why do you think McCarthy ends the novel with the image of trout in mountain streams before the end of the world?

In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they gummed of mystery.

What is surprising about this ending? Does it provide closure, or does it prompt a rethinking of all that has come before? What does it suggest about what lies ahead?

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Another perspective on this is that McCarthy is, in a way, reminding mankind of its place in the world. It is only a small part of the life that exists, yet in The Road, it has seemingly done something to affect everything else in a negative way. The brook trout have patterns on their backs that "were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again." This is the effect that the human race has had on the planet.

However, despite the fact that mankind has nearly wiped itself out, and some groups have shown mankind's worst tendencies in the struggle for survival, the world at large continues on. Even if mankind wipes itself out completely, the world will remain. It was here before mankind and it will be here afterward. It thrived before the human race and will eventually again thrive after us. McCarthy is reminding us that while mankind has been on the earth, every other species has suffered. With far less humans to ruin things, nature, though grievously wounded, will continue on and eventually thrive again. At the end of a story about the human race, focusing on both the destructive and creative parts of humanity, McCarthy reminds us that this world is bigger than us, and in the end we only end up destroying ourselves. The natural world will continue and, quite frankly, be better off without our destructive tendencies.

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A road is a man-made method of getting from one place to another, a necessity of civilization particularly associated with the Romans but common to all great empires. In Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, the American empire has fallen in some unspecified catastrophe, and a man travels with his son to the sea across an ash-covered America in which there are few survivors.

Apart from documenting the hardships suffered by the father and son on their journey, the book provides various other examples of human tragedy and suffering, in particular the grisly instances of cannibalism: the captives in the cellar, and the baby roasted on a spit. A major theme is man's inhumanity to man in the most dire of circumstances.

At the end of the book, however, the focus widens to reveal other victims of the tragedy, mysterious, irreplaceable, and older than man. McCarthy reminds us that the apocalypse, probably caused by humanity, did not only affect people. He removes man from the foreground for a moment to remind the most selfish of creatures that he is a part of nature, not the centre of the universe, and that he has destroyed many things that have their own value and beauty, independent of humanity and inhumanity.

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