The Road Characters (Cormac McCarthy)

Cormac McCarthy

The Road Characters at a Glance

The Road key characters:

  • In The Road, the father is resourceful in finding ways for him and his son to survive. He grows progressively weaker and eventually dies.

  • The boy grows progressively stronger and shows compassion toward others.

List of Characters

The father, or Papa (unnamed)
The story is told through the viewpoint of this man, whose preoccupation in life is to keep his son alive in a post-nuclear landscape.

The boy (unnamed)
Born after the bombs destroyed much of civilization, he has lived his entire life in the wasteland of a nuclear winter. He travels with his father and grows each day in perception and courage.

The wife (unnamed)
Not a part of the current story line, she died before the novel begins. She was mother to the boy, and it is hinted that she chose to take her own life rather than to live in the dreary and dangerous world in which they were struggling to survive.

Lightning Man
The father and son run across this man on the road. He is a survivor, like them, but barely alive, and appears to have "been struck by lightning."

Ninety-Year-Old Man
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.

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.

The Thief
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 Small Boy
The son imagines he sees a small boy running and hiding from them on the road during their travels.

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.


There are basically only two characters in this book, and neither of them is named. There is a man (whose age is not given) and a young boy, who is the man’s son. The son calls the man “Papa.” The story is told through a third-person narrator, but much of the story is seen through the man’s perspective.

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 their supplies. At the high points of the story, the man has scavenged enough food to keep them alive, several blankets and plastic tarps to keep them dry and warm, and fuel to light a lamp the man has improvised. At the low points, the man and his son go hungry and are drenched by the rain and are cold.

The man grows weaker. In the beginning, he is able, on occasion, to carry his son, but by the end, the man can no longer move even when he leans on the grocery cart.

The boy, on the other hand, appears to grow stronger each day, at least emotionally and psychologically. In the 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 fears. He is able, in the end, to say goodbye to his father and trust a stranger to help him survive. The boy is also uncommonly grateful and compassionate. Although starving himself, he wants to help those people they meet along the way, especially a young boy they 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 man had a wife. She is not in the present time of the narrative. The man thinks about her, however, and part of her story is...

(The entire section is 512 words.)