The Road Characters
The main characters in The Road are the man and the boy.
- The man is a caring and resourceful individual who continuously finds ways to survive and protect his son. He grows progressively weaker throughout the novel and eventually dies.
- The boy grows progressively stronger over the course of the journey, developing from a fearful child into a mature young man who shows compassion toward others. After his father’s death, he must survive on his own.
Last Updated on July 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 664
Much of the novel is seen through the viewpoint of an unnamed man, whose preoccupation in life is to keep his son alive in a post-nuclear landscape. The son calls the man “Papa.”
The man is very resourceful. He gathers bits of metal, small tools, scraps of wood, and other materials as he finds them in abandoned houses and stores, and he puts them to use in maintaining the grocery cart that carries the pair’s supplies. At the high points of the story, the man has scavenged enough food to keep himself and his son alive, several blankets and plastic tarps to keep them dry and warm, and fuel to light a lamp he has improvised. At low points, the man and his son go hungry, are drenched by the rain, and are cold.
The man grows weaker as the novel progresses. In the beginning, he is able, on occasion, to carry his son; by the end, however, the man can no longer move, even when he leans on the grocery cart. The man passes away in the night before the novel’s end.
Born after bombs destroyed much of civilization, the unnamed boy has lived his entire life in the wasteland of a nuclear winter. He travels with his father and grows each day in understanding, strength, and courage.
At the novel’s beginning, the boy is constantly in a state of fear and often asks his father if they are going to die. As the story progresses, however, the boy senses his father’s illness and must reconcile with his own fears. He is able, in the end, to say goodbye to his father and to trust a stranger to help him survive.
The boy is uncommonly grateful and compassionate. often ridden with guilt when he and his father do not, or cannot, help someone. Although he is starving, he wants to help those people they meet along the way, especially a young boy he and his father come across in a small town. The boy also pays attention to what his father eats and drinks and his father’s propensity to offer the boy food without eating any himself. He makes his father promise to stop sacrificing.
The wife, who is also unnamed, is not a part of the current storyline and died before the novel begins. The man thinks about her, however, and part of her story is provided in flashback. She was the boy’s mother, and she sensed that she would be a distraction or handicap to the man and the boy once they realized they must live on the road, so she did not go with them. It is insinuated that she took her own life.
The father and son run across this man on the road. He is a survivor, like them, but barely alive, and he appears to have “been struck by lightning.”
The father and son run across this man on the road and stay with him for a while before moving on. He alludes to other survivors, but he is suspicious and wary of other people and questions. He often contradicts himself, supposedly as a safety precaution.
Barbarian in the Bushes
This man stumbles upon the father and son in the bushes and attempts to grab the boy. He is a cannibal, one of a group that survives by hunting and eating other humans.
This man tries to steal the father and son’s supplies while they are out exploring. The father forces him to return their goods.
The father and son run across numerous victims of both the war and the barbaric crowds of survivors. As they travel, they discover bodies of those burned by the bombs and eaten by cannibals.
The Unnamed Man
This man helps the son near the end of the novel, and it is hinted that he takes the boy into his own family.