How does Cormac McCarthy's prose style in "The Road" resemble poetry more than narrative prose?

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The reasons that you stated above in your question partially answer the question itself; McCarthy has a very unique feel to his writing, and he does jump in and out of dreaming and reality within a passage.  Poetry tends to do that much more than narrative prose.  One of the main purposes of narratives is to tell story; the emphasis is on plot. Poetry is more about mood and feeling, and McCarthy's storytelling has a definite mood to it, so in that sense, it is very poetic.

Adding to its poetic tone is his unique grammar.  Poetry takes liberties with grammar, using the language, words, and grammar for impact, rather than for understandability.  Take for example the opening sentence:  "When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him."  Although not necessarily incorrect in grammar, it is a lengthy sentence with a lot of "ands" that makes it seem like a long, drawn-out breath.  It is exhausting to read, which is probably how the father feels, exhausted at his quest for survival, and in his worry for his son.  So, McCarthy uses the grammar and the sentence structures, to convey the sense of never-ending exhaustion that the travellers must feel.  That is a definite poetic angle there.

Another poetic angle seen is his use of those long sentences, mixed with incomplete sentences (poetry often uses incomplete sentences) thrown in with tiny sentence fragments that up an entire line.  For example, "I'm right here," and "I know," take up their own lines.  This emphasizes their importance, how being there for each other is important, and, being isolated on separate lines like that is a poetic structure.  He also uses a lack of correct dialogue quotations.  When they speak, he doesn't set it off with "Are you okay?" the father asked the son.  Instead, he just throws it in as part of the line, not setting it off with quotes.  Poetry doesn't use direct dialogue very often, so McCarthy's text models poetry in that sense.  It gives the entire thing a more passive feel, a more dreamlilke quality.  McCarthy also uses a lot of poetic techniques-imagery, similes, metaphors.  Consider the following line:

"Then they set out along the blacktop in teh gun-metal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world's entire."

He uses imagery and metaphor to describe the light, and concise langauge to describe how much they mean to each other.  That is more like a poem than narrative.

So, through weaving reality and dreams, using distinct sentence structures and grammar, the lack of dialogue markations, and poetic techniques, McCarthy's narrative is very poetic, giving it all a very distinct voice.

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How is The Road by Cormac McCarthy like poetry?

Though Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road has all the basic qualities which would classify it as a novel (a long work of narrative written in prose, with a typical focus on character and action), it is in some ways an unusual example of the genre. Like McCarthy’s other fiction, it is written in very sparse language in a very literal sense. There is a lot of white space on the pages of The Road, many of which are filled with short lines of character dialog. Take this example (from page 147 in my edition):

Warm at last.

Warm at last?


Where did you get that?

I don’t know.

Okay. Warm at last.

Short, spare lines of text like this look like poetry, at least lyric poetry. It might seem a trite point to say that the pages of The Road at times literally look they contain passages of poetry, but the spare style connects to another way in which McCarthy’s novel is like poetry. Unlike narrative (short stories and novels, typically), which focuses on plot and action, poetry is often centered on description and vivid, expressive details. Poetry suggests something more often than it tells something, as you would expect a novel to do.

The Road contains numerous passages which are primarily descriptive in nature. Here’s a good example:

He sat looking around. An old doghouse sleeper behind the seats. Papers in the floor. The glovebox was open but it was empty. He climbed back between the seats. There was a raw damp mattress on the bunk and a small refrigerator with the door standing open. A fold-down table. Old magazines in the floor. (45)

The Road says very little about what caused the post-apocalyptic scenario that provides the novel’s setting. Instead of getting a long backstory, readers are given descriptive details that paint a picture in their minds. The passage above makes clear that the world as we know it has been abandoned in the world of The Road. Instead of coming out and saying this directly, the details (like the open refrigerator, old magazines, and decaying mattress) suggest this to readers, in a rather poetic way. In this sense, the very short lines of character dialog in the novel, precisely because they are so sparse, serve to heighten the effect of the poetic details that end up doing most of the “storytelling.”

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How is the writing in The Road by Cormac McCarthy in some ways more like poetry than narrative prose?need examples

McCarthy's The Road is more like poetry than narrative prose for a couple of reasons, at least. Firstly it is entirely meditative. We see this post apocalyptic world through the meditations of the father and this is characteristic of any good poetry.

Secondly, it is not divided up like traditional novels are. There are sections, but these are more like flashbacks and such. Again, this is like poetry, specifically John Ashbery poetry as we see in "The System."

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