Discussion Topic

Key events in the first 69 pages of "The Road"


In the first 69 pages of The Road, key events include the man and his son traveling through a post-apocalyptic world, scavenging for food, and avoiding potential threats. They encounter an abandoned gas station, where they find some supplies, and a house with a hidden cellar, revealing the harsh realities of their environment.

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What are the key events in the first 25 pages of "The Road"?

It looks like you have been tasked with writing journal entries for Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Based on your question, this journal entry should be based on the first 25 pages of the book.

First, your journal entries will reveal how the story has resonated with you so far. Try including your thoughts about the main themes, the structure of the story, and the use of literary devices (characterization, figurative language, imagery, etc.). If your teacher has a list of elements they would like to see in your entries, be sure to include them. Be aware, however, that Cormac McCarthy is well known for his habit of writing dialogue without quotation marks. He uses few, if any, semi-colons in his writing and is notorious for run-on sentences.

Each journal entry should also be dated, and you may choose to only discuss a few pages at a time in any one entry. Take, for example, a journal entry for the first 3 pages:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (pages 3–5) December 5th, 2018

I have just finished reading the first three pages of The Road. In all, I feel unsettled by them. The unnamed narrator and his son (I presume) appear to be navigating dangerous terrain. McCarthy's dialogue has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it. None of the grammar conventions are in place. Spoken dialogues aren't punctuated with quotation marks, and run-on sentences seem to be the order of the day. The run-on sentences give the impression of events moving too fast for the narrator's liking. He is shell-shocked, and there seems to be no end to the horrors he has to face.

So, the above is an example of a journal entry. You may have anywhere from 6–8 entries altogether. Here are some other elements to consider for your entries:

1) How does McCarthy's use of punctuated short sentences, such as "Barren, silent, godless," contribute to the mood of the story? The narrative highlights a prevailing, stark hopelessness. We get the idea that the narrator's fear is palpable, but for his son's sake, he must do everything he can to rein in his feelings of dread and apprehension.

2) Does the inner dialogue advance the plot? What do you learn about the plot from the narrator's disjointed inner dialogue? Why does McCarthy refrain from punctuating spoken dialogue? Here, you may decide to discuss the post-apocalyptic setting of the novel and how this is reflected in the dialogue and imagery of the first 25 pages.

Take, for example, McCarthy's description of the gas station. Tools and items sit silently. There is dust and ash everywhere. Surprisingly, the narrator picks up the dusty phone and dials the number of his father's house. Is the narrator's behavior a desperate means of holding on to a lost past? We are inspired to ask the same question the son asks the father: "What are you doing?"

3) What does the creature in the dream symbolize? Is McCarthy's use of unique similes to describe the creature significant?

4) How does McCarthy characterize the narrator and his son? Does McCarthy use direct characterization at all, or does he mainly utilize indirect characterization? What do we learn about the narrator and his son through indirect characterization? Explore themes of loyalty, courage, and hope.

Hope this helps!

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What are the key events between pages 25-69 in The Road?

When writing a journal about this particular section of the book, there are a number of things that one could focus on. Since the book is comprised of the journey of the man and the boy, it would be useful to focus not so much on exactly where they go in this section, but rather what they encounter.

Early in this section, the two travel to the place that was the childhood home of the man known as "Papa." The boy is nervous and wants to leave, but Papa has a difficult time leaving as he reminiscences about what the house used to be like: where the stockings were tacked at Christmas, the hedge outside, where he and his sisters did their homework when the power was out. These are juxtaposed with reminders of the present: the house has been stripped of interior wood, there are holes in the ceiling, there is an iron cot set up, the bones of a small animal are "dismembered and placed in a pile" (26). This description, while grisly, is nothing compared to the one that will appear at the end of this section.

McCarthy then moves the reader through a number of short scenes, all of which focus on the fear and uncertainty of the time. One night there appears to be an earthquake, or at least an earthquake-like sensation that approaches and moves under them as they approach the foothills. The boy is afraid, and the man holds him close. If you were writing this as a journal entry, you could focus on the man's attempts to reassure the boy, despite the fact that the man also fearful and unsure.

During these moments, the man also thinks back to the "first years," presumably after whatever happened happened, when there were a lot of people by the road. Again, the motif if uncertainty is present. The two then travel through the frozen mountains, where they move by day and huddle by night. At one point the man watches the boy carrying wood and stoking flames to help them survive the night. Again, there are a number of scenes that depict the brief flashes of life, or lack thereof, that occupy existence. The man starts to move into dreams of the woman, presumably his wife and the mother of the boy, but as these memories appear, so do memories of the progression the atrocities, how "within a year there were fires on the ridges and deranged chanting. The screams of the murdered. By day the dead impaled on spikes on the road."

As they travel, the two continue to experience small moments of serenity, or how things used to be. Despite the scorched landscape there remain somehow still serene world of frozen mountains and waterfalls. Part of the journal could also focus on the way the man helps the boy to practice swimming near a freezing waterfall, the boy "so thin it stopped his heart" working as a reminder of the larger reality outside of this moment of bonding (38). At one point, they find some mushrooms and have a desire to stay in what seems like the closest they have been to a safe, idyllic setting. However, with the safety comes a realization. In the man's words: "the waterfall is an attraction. It was for us and it will be for others and we don't know who they will be and we can't hear them coming. It isn't safe." (42)

In continuing with the juxtaposition of safety and fear, they then find a tractor trailer that has jack-knifed. The truck cab provides them shelter for a night, but the next day they find that is connected to a trailer full of decayed human bodies.

A few of the significant moments in this section come in the form of interactions with others. They meet a slow, shuffling man who had been struck by lightening who comes out of the woods ahead of them. The boy wants to help him but the man keeps them moving on. This upsets the boy for days, and the man must keep insisting there was nothing they could have done. This too would make a good journal entry, if one were to wish to focus on the conflict within the man to do what is right and do what is safe.

There is also a significant moment in which the man takes out his billfold, sorts through the credit cards and IDs, throws it into the woods, and leaves the photo of his wife on the ground as the two continue on. This represents another attempt for the man to leave past identity behind and focus simply on their survival, although his memories of the past remain. Later, he reflects on leaving the picture and thinks "that he should have tried to keep her in their lives in some way but he didn't know how" (54).

After the interaction with the wounded man, the boy loses heart which triggers flashbacks to when the man's wife did the same, and her words to him:

I didn't bring myself to this. I was brought. And now I'm done. I thought about not even telling you. That would probably have been best. You have two bullets and then what? You can't protect us. You say you would die for us but what good is that? I'd take him with me if it weren't for you. You know I would. It's the right thing to do.

She follows this with even harsher words about her idea of the reality they face, and then she leaves the two of them.

This section ends with an encounter with a hostile group, some in gas masks carrying pipes, followed by a diesel truck carrying men with rifles. One of the men steps away to go to the bathroom and runs into the man and the boy. The member of the group grabs the boy and the man shoots him. The boy freezes and the man carries him as they flee. They get away but the boy remains frozen and the man later thinks about the severity of what just happened: "A single round left in the revolver. You will not face the truth. You will not." This, too, would be an interesting focus for a journal, as by protecting the boy, the man has essentially insured that in the future, he may not be able to use the gun on them to protect them both from a fate worse than death.

Finally, a journal could focus on this idea juxtaposed with the understanding that hits the man as they backtrack and he goes back to where the altercation took place. Their cart has been upset and plundered, and he finds the remains of the man he shot: skin, guts, and boiled bones. This works as a grim bookend to the pile of bones they encountered at the start of this section. Here the man realizes what they just barely escaped. He returns to the boy, whom he hugs close to him near the end of this section, still not facing the truth.

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