“The simple things are the hardest” – this well-known quote fits best to the text of ‘The Road’ book, written by Cormac McCarthy. The common critics of this masterpiece novel generally deal with the misunderstanding of its simple composition, manner of narration and story presentation, both in the original version of the book and in translations. We, as readers, see enough simple classic road trip from A to B destination points. Nevertheless, this journey, this Road gradually reveals the outside post-apocalyptic world and the relationship between the Father and the Son by means of their common trip along with the dead surrounding environment. Cormac McCarthy gives us only two main characters with no names, but only definitions, made by himself – Man and Boy. The author additionally gives poor details of the environment in his novel, as well as open ending provokes imagination to forecast.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy book

The Road by Cormac McCarthy would not present you with a detailed world with all the answers and sophisticated definite explanations, with causes and effects, with a thorough analysis of the characters. Instead, the book creates a sort of emotional draft, its own reality with the core, but not shaped and the reader can fill this world with own perception and images. In a scene, when Father and Son reveal remains of “cannibalism picnic”, it would seem for all readers to have the same picture, but Cormac McCarthy only gives us pieces of information and we imagine the crime scene, which happened last night. ‘The Road’ book poorly describes desirable storage with a provision, means of hygiene and even cloth to be found by Man and Boy, but without particular details. The reader fills this bunker with own imagination and desires of some goods. The Road, being accomplished by two travelers, describes as a dead place without animals or plants, covered with ash.  We can hardly imagine this environment with some green and life on our common sense. Cormac McCarthy calls his characters Man and Boy each and every time and such simplicity emotionally reflects the simplicity of this empty world with no names and former lives.

the road cormac mccarthy analysis

So when are you going to talk to me again?

I’m talking now.

Are you sure?





The words above are an example of a common dialogue and ‘The road’ Father and Son relationship. These two main characters meet some people and are engaged in short conversations, but the very story of the novel is being narrated by means of their family relations. Book does not give us the deep of thoughts, stylistic delicacy or lofty speeches. In such a manner The Road by Cormac McCarthy plunges us into the atmosphere of the dark world around the characters, where open-ended have become a routine. The novel conceals the past of the Man before this all have happened. His Son (Boy) was born after “the end” of the modern human world. He has not attended school, watched movies or read books, has not communicated with other children. All his life is confined and formed by his Mother (for some period of time in the past) and his Father. The Road is the reflection, a metaphor of Boy’s life. The book by Cormac McCarthy was awarded multiple literature tributes, in particular with the Pulitzer Prize.



THE MAN, who has known the real world before the apocalypses, who has felt the smell of flowers, heart the sounds of life and machines, has enjoyed all the comfort of up-to-day civilization, now conceives the road as a way of life for his only Son. Man or Father strongly coughs with blood and feels himself from bad to worse every day of the journey. Father now protects the only matter of his own existence – his Boy. As a part of former happy life before the ash and cannibalism. THE BOY has never seen the beauty of the past world, but he represents the reflection of it – grew up with the memories and issues, what is good and wrong, claimed by his Father. Cormac McCarthy does not declare the meaning of Man’s life directly within the text. The Father and the Son just do their way forward, symbolizing the course of life in its simplicity. The Road has existed all the time, before, during and after mankind, without any specific meaning, except the existence itself.

the road father and son relationship

All the Boy knows is limited with the Road, poor and starving life within the shelters and constant walking ahead. Cormac McCarty does not detail the life of these two for the last months or years, past from the death of the Woman (wife and mother). How many shelters did they change, how many storages with goods did they found earlier, how many trucks did they use, carrying own belongings, how many simple meaningless dialogues did they performed, reflecting events. These two representatives of two different generations and worlds “Before” and “After” do their way beside each other every day. In fact, Father has lost all the light of life, giving all his best to the Boy, marching behind.

The Boy or Son in The Road story. the road relationship between father and son

Both in a book and in a movie, the readers and viewers are stunned with the scenes, depicting the Man, who is going to perform an inconceivable act – to shot his own Son with a gun. He is ready to do this unthinkable thing in order not to allow cannibals to take the Boy, rape him, kill and then eat this child. Herewith, the Man cares nothing for his own destiny after his shot to Son’s head. Not because his own life will soon end with a painful and humiliating death, but as a loss of the only meaning of life – Son, have been pushing him forward all these years. Although they manage to escape from such an end each and every time, these scenes of an inconceivable act are the plot climax of the book and movie adaptation. It’s remarkable for the author to reveal that relationships between Father and Son were inspirited by his own attitude to his Son, even with some direct quotes within the text.

relationship between the man and the boy in the road



Cormac McCarthy does not play about the details of his apocalyptic world of the future. We tent to feel strong emotions with contrasts – of all comfort we have today on the one side and deadly images of ashes and dump on the other. The novel is maybe the grimmest and dark version of the future for mankind. We found no colors apart from black and grey. Roads and trees, towns and fields are covered with grey ash. The characters bypass former big cities and travel through the American rural areas. Metropolises may no longer exist, destroyed with atomic bombs or something even worse. Starvation and weather slowly kill the remaining inhabitants of this world of grey colors, but the one thing with is far more dangerous and the rapid consequence is a meet with other people on the road. Father and Son call themselves “good people”.

The Road and dark future of post apolacyptic

Another man is now the most dangerous event to deal with. The fittest and enduring ones now form groups to hunt down and kill travelers to obtain belongings and to eat these poor victims. This grey world of the future gives only two sources of provision to survive. The first one is the remaining supplies of the former world – generally preserves peach, tomato, fish and meat, etc. – non-renewable resources with no future. The very next can of vegetables, once found inside abandoned houses or stores, maybe the last. Storages with goods and supplies are a kind of miracle.

The second “resource” with differs “good people” from “bad” ones are human bodies. CANNIBALISM. Road gangs and even small groups of people kill lonely travelers and eat them. Cormac McCarthy knocks out the reader with a number of book scenes of cannibalism. Former companions eat the body of a bandit, killed by the Man. A group of people, two men, and a pregnant woman, cook born child eat this living being. Father and Son reveal a “storage of people”, which looks like a slaughterhouse for the local road armed gang. Cannibalism is an issue that generally pushes away the most impressionable readers and viewers.

'The Road' and the cannibalism



The movie adaptation is an example of exceptional work with the original fictional world of a novel. These two pieces of art complement each other. The movie all in all close to the book, reflecting all the main events. Characters are more live in the movie adaptation. Viggo Mortensen did his dramatic best, depicting the image of the Man. It is remarkable, that most of the locations in a movie are real ones for actual shooting – one among many of the reasons why The road movie impresses. Adaptation formally portrays an unthinkable world of Cormac McCarthy’s imagination on a screen. We got an exceptional atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic world – it may be the best possible depiction within the movie art.

The Road movie 2009 viggo mortensen



The main difference between these two pieces of art deals with the image of Woman – wife for the Man and mother for the Son. The novel reveals poor information with some rapid fragments of memories of the past, performed by the Man. Woman in the book performs suicide. This image was widened within the movie adaptation, with Charlize Theron in a role. After years of living in a shelter, a former house, Woman decides to die, reflecting the whole despair of this dying world. She just goes into the woods without warm close which is also can be characterized as a suicide.

Differences between book and movie The Mother, Woman

In both versions of the story, Father and Son travel with supermarket basket, carrying some poor supplies and belongings. A book presents a moment when these two lost the basket and after finding storage, have to take as much as can be carried away. In a movie, they full the basket with pounds of supplies for the future trip ahead.

Supermarket basket

Although the world is grey and dead, without plants or animals, covered with ash, both stories have some bright spots of hope. Book characters see live fish in a pond and the movie gives us a scene with a bug, inside a can of chewing tobacco. These two tiny details give hope for the restoration of life within this world.

Few scenes from the book have been omitted in a movie adaptation. Non-essential discovery of clean water in an abandoned house, but one emotional scene of cannibalism with a boiled newborn child.