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The Novel “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

The parallel realities might be closer than we used to think they are. One possesses an inexplicable ability to travel through time and space, and explore the worlds full of unknown scents, feelings, and senses. Fiction is a powerful and wise guide through each of the existing realities. One of the possible routes is an apocalyptic world, with its terror, despair, and awe. Whereas ones devour the horror and travel stories taking place in an apocalyptic setting, others create them with their hands and minds. To design such an environment, one has to dig deep into the core of their story, exploring the characters’ background and building a proper plot structure. In this paper, specific questions that are to be addressed when writing a post-apocalyptic story will be considered; according to these questions, the novel “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy will be analyzed.

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With the world full of zombies, endless catastrophes shaking the Earth, or cunning criminals, the author should consider how the civilization existed before the apocalypses erupted. Thus, the first question can be articulated as “What the world was like before the apocalypses?” (M. KIRIN 00:03:27 – 00:03:30). Previously crowded cities may then be filled with wolves, dogs, or deer; the nuclear plants without the cooling facility may explode when they no longer served. Thus, each inherent detail of a civilization may be explored when the ordinary world no longer exists. The variety of concepts that were known before may change the way they are used or viewed afterward, and, therefore, influence the plot and enhance characters’ development.

The world of “The Road” created by Cormac McCarthy is dark, gloomy, and lonely. A father and a son are going across the wasteland, allegedly the former United States, to the coast, hoping to find a new life. Along the way, they see abandoned houses, hide from criminals, and desperately seek food and clothing. The world before the End of Days, in this case, was blessed with electricity, vehicles, the Internet, numerous stores, and malls with the ceaseless food on their shelves (McCarthy, 2019). It was organized and ordered by law and public; nothing seemed about to change the routine.

With this in mind, one should further consider whether there is anyone who remembers what the world had been like before it ended – which is the second question to be addressed (M. KIRIN 00:03:30 – 00:03:32). It might be dreadful to know that people think the existing reality is the only possible one. The vision and recollections play a significant role in the characters’ building. The way people in the story view the world may cause conflicts between the main characters or the certain groups, define their mindset, and the ultimate goals.

“The Road” introduces two opposite perspectives held by the father and his son. Father appeared to know what the reality was like before the apocalypses, while the son, born after the world ended, solely knows this reality – the one with murders, despair, and relentless hiding (McCarthy, 2019). The father often recalls his wife that committed suicide and left them both and the evening with his uncle on the lake. He tells his son the stories of courage, justice, and humanity of the old world so that the boy could continue to “carry the fire” within. The farther, thus, shares his perspective with his son, encouraging him to stand for what he believes is right, and contributes to the development of the character.

When the world is broken, technology, scientific advances, accumulated knowledge may vanish forever. The third question to be contemplated is what is the one element that will never be regained (M. KIRIN 00:03:32 – 00:03:34). Humanity will no longer be able to use vehicles and cross a state in a week or less, nor use mobile communication to contact with the loved ones. The supply of food is not possible anymore, condemning people to hunt animals or other people to survive. There will be a certain technology, knowledge, area(s), that can be possibly lost forever.

The one specific, but the inclusive, concept that will be lost in “The Road” are stories. The ones of hope, love, dedication, good and evil, the ancient myths, the basis of the modern literature and cinema, will be lost forever. The stories are of exceptional importance to each individual since their birthday. Reading the books, one learns how the world is, or how the life might be; initially, one learns how to distinguish between good and evil, and then knows that life is so much more complicated. Over time, tales teach the reader to choose for themselves what is right and what is wrong. If the books are destroyed, these stories are what the people will lose when the civilization is rebuilt.

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In times of atrocities and miseries, there are always people who assume responsibility for the food supplies and security of a settlement. The fourth question to be addressed is who is the one person who has power, and what they are willing to do to maintain control (M. KIRIN 00:04:07 – 00:04:10). The more desperate times are, the harder are the decisions the leaders have to make. To survive the apocalypses with no fresh food or purified water, one may find alternative, at times immoral, solutions to feed the group they are in charge of. More than that, in times when good and evil are vague, the leaders may apply to severe methods of protecting their people and themselves. Thus, to develop the structure of the plot and explore the characters’ nature, it is essential to know what those in charge are willing to do to maintain control over a group.

The apocalyptic world of “The Road” is inhabited by desperate people gathered in groups to survive. During the journey, the farther and the son come across a house with a basement filled with terrified and disabled people; the house owner and its inhabitants happened to be cannibals (McCarthy, 2019). To survive, the owner of the house, a group leader, was willing to commit and committed an immoral crime. As the father and the son continued their journey, they encountered a settlement where a people carried slaves and prey to the village surrounded by the heads being held on the spikes (McCarthy, 2019). In this case, the leader was willing to enslave and kill people in order to maintain control over the population and provide food supplies.

Until one is blessed with the modern conveniences and secured by the law, they enjoy the stories of apocalypses and their barbarities. The fifth and the final question is what is the one concept the author is the most terrified of (M. KIRIN 00:04:10 – 00:04:15). One thing is to be aware of the events happening are fake, and another one is to imagine oneself actually living in such a world. Some individuals are frightened of hunger or irradiated wildlife, while others – of exposure to death or diseases.

For the author of the current paper, the most frightening thing in the reality of “The Road” are people. After the catastrophe, wildlife or radiation are no such threat, as the criminals and desperate people are. Being hungry and terrified, with no hope for the future, people may quickly forget their moral compass and commit acts they would never commit in the civilized world. More than that, no law regulates those in the apocalyptic environment other than morale and hunger.

To travel through time and space, it is not always necessary to use the time machine. Sometimes, it is enough to open a book and start to read. The numerous worlds will be revealed to the reader; an apocalyptic one is no exception. However, if one is willing to write such a story, they should first address five questions to be aware of essential setting details. These questions regard the way the world was before it ended, what technology or knowledge may be lost forever, what the authors themselves are terrified of in the new world and some others. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is horrific with its ruthless leaders, desperate vagrants, abandoned houses, and hard choices. There are people who remember the civilization how it was, and there are those who view the cruel reality as the only one possible. There are people who are “carrying the fire” – hope, compassion, love – and there are the ones who buried these values in order to survive.

Works Cited

McCarthy, C. The Road: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Pan Macmillan, 2019.

“World-Building Tips: Life After the Apocalypse – Writing Advice” YouTube. 2015. Web.

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