Student Question

What is the lesson that McCarthy conveys about relationships in The Road?

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The assignment about relationships in The Road can be approached from several different angles. There is no single answer because the book is complex, deals with multiple themes, and touches upon multiple types of relationships. The primary objective of both parents is to get the son to safety at almost any risk to themselves. We see this in the sacrifices they make. Although we are never introduced to the mother, she decided she would only hinder the pair's ability to find safety and therefore chose not to accompany them in order to maximize their chances of success. The father's sacrifices for the son are seen in his will to continue moving forward even after he is weak, with barely enough energy to continue. Small gestures underscore the parental sacrifices, as well. For instance, when the two find a can of soda, the father says, "It's a treat. For you." The son offers some to the father, but the man declines because he wants to nourish his son even at his own expense. The parents therefore display true love toward the son, and the son, in turn, is grateful and loves them.

The author expresses the significance of the paternal bond, including the trust father and son place in one another. The question of morality is seen in how they treat the strangers they meet along the way and how strangers treat them. Many of the other relationships are shown in contrast to the loving and protective one between father and son, the most important and fully explored relationship in the book.

It is likely that the author is describing humanity in general and relationships people have with their fellow humans. For instance, the father and son meet a barbarian and a thief. These people try to steal from them, and the cannibal even tries to take the boy, presumably to eat him. The survival of these people depends on viewing other human beings purely in terms of what can be taken from them. They are dangerous because these characters do not want to interact with and create bonds with other people. Thus, it seems the author is saying that these types exist in the world and that we should be aware and wary of people who only take and never give back.

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