Does the father in "The Road" deny his own death?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, death is a very important theme. However, the man in the story, who the boy calls papa, is not in denial of his pending death. He spends the entire journey trying to prepare his son for the time when he will no longer be there to protect him. The man teaches the boy how to judge situations for danger. He teaches the boy how important it is for him to grow up and learn to take care of himself. The man is his son's role model and teacher.

They don't discuss death; the man does not share his fear of death with his son. Yet, he knows he is growing weaker and he is coughing up blood throughout the trip. When the man and the boy find the underground shelter it is very tempting for them to remain but the father knows they must press on. He wants to live to see his son safely delivered to a warmer climate and to an area where he will have a better chance to survive.

"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 reader must be careful not to project a denial of impending death simply because the man has preoccupation for life. Near the end of the novel after the boy has tried to get an old man they meet on the road to join them and fails, they camp for the night. The man wakes up coughing and the author writes:

 "He hoped the boy had gone back to sleep. He knelt there wheezing softly, his hands on his knees. I am going to die, he said. Tell me how I am to do that."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial