Which early quotations from The Road by Cormac McCarthy create conflict?

Quick answer:

Quotations in the early chapters of The Road that create conflict within the story include quotations that inform the reader about the man vs. nature theme, such as "there'd be no surviving another winter here."

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Cormac McCarthy's book The Road has a variety of internal and external conflicts. Conflict exists between the man and other survivors scraping for an existence. There is a conflict of man vs. nature as the man and his son struggle to find food, water, and shelter, and there is an internal conflict that wages in the man that is focused on his role as a protector and father.

For this particular question, because it limits an answer to the early parts of the book, I would focus on external conflicts that focus on man vs. man or man vs. nature. Readers simply haven't been exposed enough to the man and the boy to really recognize the internal conflicts happening there. The second paragraph of the book has the following sentences, which describe the current location of the man and the boy.

Barren, silent, godless. He thought the month was October but he wasn't sure. He hadn't kept a calendar for years. They were moving south. There'd be no surviving another winter here.

Readers do not yet know that the world has essentially ended, but this quote makes it clear that the man is in a hostile environment where food and shelter are critical for survival through winter, and the quote lets us know that the area has neither.

A few paragraphs later, readers get the following sentence.

He spread the small tarp they used for a table on the ground and laid everything out and he took the pistol from his belt and laid it on the cloth and then he just sat watching the boy sleep.

The most important detail in this sentence in terms of conflict for the story is the detail about the pistol. It tells readers more about the danger that exists around the man. We know his journey is or will be dangerous because of the inclusion of the pistol. It is an example of "Chekhov's gun." The inclusion is important because the item will be important later on. Raiders of the Lost Ark with Indiana Jones did the same thing when the camera specifically showed audiences that he was packing a pistol before going to search for the Ark of the Covenant.

Finally, some quotes show clearly that conflict surrounds the man:

This was not a safe place.

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What are three significant quotations that develop character or create conflict in Cormac McCarthy's The Road?

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is an incredibly sobering book to read. It shows an absolutely dismal future filled with all kinds of destruction and seedy people. Cannibalism is a legitimate form of obtaining calories, and people are not averse to killing another human for his or her possessions. Readers are likely to legitimately wonder if the man and his son are the last people on Earth with any sense of morality or care for other human beings, and we are introduced to that characterization with the very first sentence of the story.

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.

Notice that the sentence manages to imply that the man habitually wakes up and touches the sleeping child beside him. The man is checking for the boy's presence. The man is checking to make sure the boy is sleeping normally and healthily. These are things that any parent does to a child under their care, and the quote clearly shows that the man cares for and protects the child.

As the opening of the book continues, readers get to experience the first of many conversations that happen between the man and the boy. The conversations are always short and to the point. They are quite clipped, yet there are moments within these conversations that reveal a deeper relationship due to the topic of the conversation. This occurs in their opening conversation when the boy asks his father what would happen if he died. The father's response shows that his world is his son's life.

And then later in the darkness: Can I ask you something?
Yes. Of course you can.
What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay.

That sentiment is echoed again in the following quote.

That the boy was all that stood between him and death.

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