Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is McCarthy's "The Road" Hopeless or Hopeful?

I vote for hopeful. In the deepest darkness thinkable the father chooses life and goodness for his son despite the stark realness of despair as the he dies and everything around him appears to be dying.

This is the dark night of the soul in our death culture. The love of the father and his choice for good made me think this is the best book I've read since Lord of the Rings.

Fred


http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=263597

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

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Well, I just finished this book today. Was required to read it for class. And I cried ...boy is it depressing and is so hopeless. Does anybody have other views of the book that I might be missing? I'm looking for hope in it...I feel like it's wrong for something to have so little hope in God.

Has anybody else read this book?


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#2 Aug 26, '08, 2:43 am
Sam Maloney
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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I'm a huge fan of McCarthy, he reminds me of Faulkner at his best.

I thought the whole point of 'The Road' was hope:

SPOILER ALERT!!!!




SPOILER ALERT!!!!




SPOILER ALERT!!!!




SPOILER ALERT!!!!



It starts out in the worst possible world, with a father and son who love each other, and despite everything the father is trying to teach the son to be a decent person.

After much suffering, the son goes on alone, but he finds aid, finds out there really are other decent people and other children left in the world.

I thought the message was that no matter how bad things get, a shred of human decency will survive.

I'll admit it was [literaly and figuratively] a tough journey towards a less than triumphant ending, but compared to other post apocalyptic tales [On the Beach, Ice Nine, There Will Come Soft Rains [a Bradberry short story]], I felt The Road left me with some hope, and something valuable to think about.

Certainly not a tale for everyone, though.


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#3 Aug 26, '08, 5:39 am
Layman
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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Off-topic: I've never understood why people would voluntarily read books that arouse negative emotions. I try to filter modern culture, so I can be at peace. Just because the Times Literary Supplement says you have to read something doesn't mean you have to. Reviewers often plug their pals work, or are compromised in other ways.

After, what, 20+ years of being a culture vulture I realised that most of it was a swizz, that artists were often ignoble, and that the bourgeoisie chattering to itself was not something I needed to bother too much with.

You don't have to stay to the end of a bad movie. Just leave.


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#4 Aug 26, '08, 6:18 am
Scottgun
Regular Member Join Date: September 14, 2006
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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I read the book too. I couldn't help but think the father was feeding the boy hope like a placebo. Like this passage:


We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we're the good guys.
Yes.
And we're carrying the fire.
And we're carrying the fire, yes.
Okay.
What the fire is seems to be left ambiguous. It could be the light of civilization, it could be hope in the face of hopelessness, or human compassion and right moral conduct, it could be the Holy Spirit for all we know. Their goal is the coast, but the father does not have any idea what they will do once they get there. In fact at the end it is difficult to tell if McCarthy is telling us that hope is real and worthwhile, real but pyrrhic, or mere comforting illusion in a meaningless universe. I fear it is the last one he is favoring.

In the Salve Regina, we hear: "To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears." The Road makes that vale and banishment stark and complete. The book does not answer whether there is anyone to cry to however.

I also recommend a look at an article Nerd Do-Wells which describes this disturbing trend in films and novels that are essentially saying, "the darkness shines in the light, and the light did not overcome it."
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#5 Aug 28, '08, 1:43 am
Sam Maloney
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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Layman, I think that's a rather harsh judgement on your part. A lot of great art challanges us, takes us to some dark places. The gospels would be pretty meaningless if we removed all the 'downers'.

Scott, the passage you quote is a good one. Father and son carry the light because they still behave ethically. They have values, and are therefore valuable.

The father lives totally for his son, who is kind and gentle, despite the world he lives in. Father is a great paternal role model-- he has forged his son's personality [practically the only other person the son has ever really known], and sacrifices himself daily for his son's sake.

And this, in turn, is why the son is a genuinely good person: he's following in his father's footsteps.

Think about this: the boy could have laid down beside his father's body and starved. He was tempted. But in his very darkest hour, he chose to get up and get going. He chose to try, and when he tried, he found help and hope for a better life.

I find that a powerful, positive message. In my own life, I frequently have to struggle against depression, against the desire to lay in the dark and wait for death. So I can identify with the boy, and the message-- never surrender, but never surrender your values, either-- is incredibly important, even inspirational.


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#6 Aug 31, '08, 1:25 pm
Epistemes
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Re: BOOKS: The Road, Cormac McCarthy

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Hello,

Some very astute observations about the book have already been made.

I agree that the father is offering the boy a great deal of hope throughout the book -- but it is more than obvious that the father himself seems to lack hope. He has lost hope and trust in other humans -- whom he threatens even when they have done nothing wrong to him so far as we can tell. Sure, one guy steals their belongings, but the father's reaction is more than a bit overboard...all springing from his complete and utter distrust. The father's sole purpose for living is the boy and to see that the boy survives. His only hope is that the boy will be a champion of what remains. In the end, I think this proves somewhat true, but not how the father might've expected or wished it: for the boy acts completely contrary to the father's suspicion of other people by entrusting himself to a family of strangers.

Even if McCarthy is trying to convey that hope is an illusion, he at least seems to consider it a worthwhile illusion, one that man needs in order to survive, if not to live.
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#7 Sep 1, '08, 8:39 am
Cordelil
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Re: BOOKS: The Road, Cormac McCarthy

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I read it. I am a Cormac McCarthy fan. The ones I like the best are the first 2 books of the Texas/Mexico trilogy: "All The Pretty Horses," and "The Crossing." Many critics have lauded his novel "Blood Meridian." I have read it once and will probably get around to a second in the future.

I think that the previous replies dealing with the positive apsects of the book are right on target. However, I think it along with is other recent work, "No Country For Old Men," do not measure up to the T/ M trilogy.

John


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#8 Sep 9, '08, 10:30 pm
TomPiltoff
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Re: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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I finished The Road a few months ago (I really wanted to read the book before the movie comes out) and I think it's wonderful.

I definitely agree that the theme of the story is that human compassion will always exist.

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