Why does Cormac McCarthy in 'The Road', not give his character's names? How does the labels 'boy' and 'man' affect the way readers relate to them?

Asked on by melwel

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In "The Road" the author does not provide names for his characters because it makes the story's theme of the violent indifference that has stricken the world more intense, it conveys how this devastation has stripped us of our individuality, now those who have survived wander in a rugged, raw new wilderness, fighting to stay alive.

The bleakness, coldness and indifference that is conveyed through the impersonal nature in this story helps to support the author's message of the total destruction of everything that we love and appreciate about our lives.  

"The boy and his father hope to avoid the marauders, reach a milder climate, and perhaps locate some remnants of civilization still worthy of that name. They possess only what they can scavenge to eat, and the rags they wear and the heat of their own bodies are all the shelter they have. A pistol with only a few bullets is their only defense besides flight."


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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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By not giving his characters names, McCarthy makes them more universal, more representative of humankind. As readers, we can identify more directly with this father and son, and we see the two as people who have survived the apocalyptic events that precede the opening of the novel. This man and his son are good people who struggle against enormous odds and against other people who have chosen evil ways to cope with the aftermath of the tragedy. The man and the boy are truly the "good guys" whom we want to survive. In every encounter they have with others, in every struggle, and in every predicament, we yearn for their success. Although you may be frustrated by their lack of names, McCarthy has deliberately left them nameless to make them symbolic of all of the people who are like them and left bereft by the horrific events of the novel.

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