Do you think that McCarthy may be suggesting another suggestion of universality with Coca-Cola which is sold throughout the world? This product, then, accompanies the concept of the "Everymen" expressed by poster #6.
Think of how simple a can of soda is. I have had two cans today. I didn't give it a second thought until I read this post. There isn't much left of the world or humanity in this story. The existence of a single can of Coke is a miracle, as is the fact the boy, who was born after the disaster happened, has never had one. This idea that in the middle of destruction and sorrow one sugary soft drink can be the luxury, the gift, the best part of an entire day or week hammers home how desperate the situation is.
In The Road we see a post-apocalyptic world where nothing will ever be the way it was before whatever cataclysmic occurrence caused all the destruction. By not giving any names to the characters, even the main ones, Cormack McCarthy shows that all previous notions and beliefs about what life is like no longer exist. This doesn’t dehumanize the main characters, but in a way universalizes them, making them the “Everymen” of the new world.
There is irony in the fact that the only things that have names are the products that they find along the way. These reminders of the way life used to be only add to the hardship that the survivors have to face.
I find it hard to believe that product placement is the reason that Cormac McCarthy used Coca-Cola in his bleak novel The Road. Just consider all of the advertising for Coke: all the smiles, brightness, and teaching the world to sing hardly seems to fit with the setting of McCarthy's novel.
The lack of names may be connected to lack of community and lack of value of individuals. When one character meets another in McCarthy's fictional world, the first question is not "Who are you?" It's "Are you going to try to eat me?" And the answer to that question is probably yes.
You've probably also noticed that there aren't quotation marks and precious little other punctuation, and very little scenic description. The entire world in which this father and son fuction is nameless and faceless. McCarthy writes so sparingly that the reader is forced to focus on small anomalies like this Coke.
There are a couple of valid explanations for why Coke is one of the only name-brands mentioned:
1) As ReaderofBooks suggested, it may be McCarthy's not-so-subtle smack at the pop-culture advertising jingles and logos of today and how overwhelmed by it we are. We notice the product placement in the novel because of the LACK of other product placement. We don't notice it in our regular lives because of the pervasiveness of it.The father is forgetting the names of things that don't exist anymore "The names of things slowly following these things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat." He remembers Coke. How pervasive was that advertising?
2) As mkcapen1 has pointed out, the name brand may symbolize the society that no longer produces this product. America is gone. The concept of the United States as the "land of the free, home of the brave" is gone. The Coke symbolizes all of those "American" ideals. It could also represent how shallow the ideals of the future will be. Parents traditionally have passed on religious ideals, classic stories (tall tales, folklore, fairy tales), family songs and stories. This parent is able only to pass on the memory of Coke.
3) Check out this website for a listing of Coke's tag lines through the years
Some of the ironic implications for these tag lines in reference to the dire situations in which the father and son find themselves are found in lines like "All Trails Lead to Coke" (1935), "Thirst Stops Here, Makes Travel More Pleasant" (1939), "The Pause That Refreshes" (1929, and others), etc.... You could probably write a whole paper on the irony of the Coke slogans in relation to the story.
4) There isn't much for the modern reader to identify with in the novel, and so McCarthy has given us just this smidgen of normality to make the shock of the rest of the novel more terrifying and closer to us. As the reader, we cannot, or will not, accept this world McCarthy has created. We don't identify with it. We deny it, saying that "this will never happen." He uses the few brand names to bash us over the head with how very, horribly real this kind of environmental wasteland can happen and soon if we aren't careful. And how sad is it that the only thing our mighty culture has left behind is a few tin cans of a useless and vitamin-deficient liquid? Again, if you are looking for paper ideas, you could write about our culture's corporate food production methods and the lack of good nutrition in today's society. Another good book to use for that paper might be Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
I presume that the reason is due to product placement. In other words, it is a subtle form of advertisement. I would not be surprised if the author got paid extra money to put in an advertisement for coke. One of the memorable things in the movie was also a can of coke. There was also a reference to Cheetos and Dole Pineapples. Advertising companies are getting more and more subtle. We are bombarded with advertisements everyday even in our TV shows and movies. The worst thing is that we don't even know it is happening to us. So, well done on picking this up.
In the book "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy there are neither character names nor timelines of events. The story line is the relationship and endurance of the man and the boy following an apocalyptic event. The setting is dismal and the two must stand up against splintered gangs of people.
Since there are no significant things to state the era or what has really happened there is a symbol of civilization as we know it. The coke cola stands for the symbol of society. In our society we are subject to familiar brands through advertisement. The book uses the cola in the same way.