Where do I even begin? With the writing…The prose in The Road has a rhythm, a cadence, a measured finality. A weight. Sentences, like the fictional world they describe, are stripped away to their rawest state. There are no wasted adjectives, no superfluous descriptions. Which is good, because any overzealous sketching of the horrors that McCarthy has imagined would only serve to vulgarize them. There is an incredible amount of restraint in this prose, and a resulting tension running below the surface of each sentence and every paragraph. And then just at the right time, the restraint eases off and the lines abandon themselves to a nearly reckless emotion.
From daydreams on the road there was no waking. He plodded on. He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside him leaning forward listening to the music. Gold scrollwork and sconces and the tall columnar folds of the drapes at either side of the stage. She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.
What will I remember? The images, the impressions…
The universe of The Road is not a comfortable place to get lost in – monochromatic, scentless, dirty, scarred. The overall impression is one of darkness, both physical and psychic. Humanity has been stripped of its unifying bonds, nature tortured to death, beauty become irrelevant.
Yet this barren landscape serves to underscore the pure beauty of the relationship between the father and his son. They set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.
What are my questions? With the conflict…
The real conflict in the novel is not played out between the father-son team against the roving cannibals or even against time, although these two challenges are what give the story its forward propulsion, the real conflict lies between the father and the son as they negotiate their disparate visions of existence. Fear, benevolence, compassion, sapience, rage – how much of each is needed for survival? What is “good” behavior and why is it still important in this new world? What does the future mean to each of them?
A thoroughly disturbing but courageous piece of fiction.