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Allusions in The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Updated on February 21, 2011

Book Review


The Pullitzer Prize winning The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is a depressing story about a man and his child trying to survive in the gloomiest post-apocalyptic world I have ever seen. The author tries to shove hamfisted christological allusions about the son to the reader throughout the book through conversations that seem like they would never happen. Apparently, the book is supposed to mean more than it does on the surface because the surface is pretty bad, but I did not experience this book while sitting in a classroom with a professor who loved it; I purchased it while researching at Swarthmore and read it for my own pleasure. The books seems illogical and more allegorical but the allegory never clicked. I also disliked the artsy refusal to use quotations for dialogue. It really detrtacted from getting into the book.

Some people have liked this book. It has four stars over at Amazon. It did win a Pullitzer Prize and was selected as an Oprah's Book Club book. One reviewer described it as Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece. I just figure that if this is his masterpiece, then I will stay away from his other books. The only redeeming thing about my experience with this book is that it did drag me to the end. It might be that people who like this book were not deterred by "bad science" and an unbelievable post-apocalyptic book but looked past all that and enjoyed a story of love and friendship between a father and a son.

One of the constant subjects of conversation between the father and the son centers around "What is a good guy?" The boy is genuinely good and loving in a completely desolate and hostile world. When they encounter a stranger, even one who stole from them, he does encourage loving actions. It does make me wonder how much of our love is just love because it is comfortable to love in our culture. If I was thrown into a setting like the father in this book, would I still be loving? Would I be loving if it meant risking my life day in and day out?

I would go and sell my used copy on Amazon, but I do not sell books that go for less than $4. It is definitely not worth rereading. I will never recommend it to a friend or an enemy. Stay away from this!

Entertaining: 2/5

Inspiring: 2/5

Ethical Thinking: 3/5


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      Sarah 4 years ago

      You're pretty harsh. The Road, although it is gloomy and can have gory descriptions, is a beautifully written novel about the powerful relationship between father and son. The book is definitely rated 5/5 in every aspect that it can be viewed. As long as it's read with an open mind and creative imagination, it is depicted with a dramatic elegance. It is a well written novel and brings emotion out of any reader. Strongly recommend to all types of readers.

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      Cassie 4 years ago

      When is comes to how the "apoclypse" happened, or what occurred, it can be assumed that volcanoes erupted. That would explain the ash over everything anf filling the sky. Covers much of how the population died and why there were fires(not just those that were started by people). I don't feel it was a cop out on McCarthy's part, rather just another thing to get you thinking. Volcano eruptions are really the only reasonable explaination.

    • pilgrimboy profile image

      Regan Clem 4 years ago from Ohio

      They must have seen something that I didn't see. What I think probably happened is that they had never been exposed to post-apocalyptic literature before and didn't see all the glaring faults that appear when comparing this to them.

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      RSdann 4 years ago

      Well! All those people who were on the Pulitzer Prize committee must be idiots? Anyway, I agree about the lack of quotation marks and the lack of apostrophes irked me also. That aside I really liked it and have now read it twice. Once when it won the prize and again recently for a library book group. I liked the allusions of "carrying the fire," the importance of storytelling, the quest for understanding goodness in dark circumstances, and what one who feels total and unconditional love will do to help another survive. I would gladly take your copy especially if it is a hardcopy since I loaned mine out and it never seemed to come home. :-)

    • Ivona Poyntz profile image

      Ivona Poyntz 5 years ago from UK

      The Road was also a bit of a cop out (although parts worked for me) in that the readers are dropped in this post apocalyptic doomsday scenario with no clue about what happened and what is going on: saves the author a bit of work, I suppose

    • zcrowley50 profile image

      zcrowley50 6 years ago from Boston

      Pilgrimboy I agree with you. The Road seemed forced. Not just the dialogue but the description, too. Maybe I just did not get what McCarthy was going for. I love the rest of his stuff, but this one was not my favorite. I just put up a post about another of his books - I encourage you to check it out. Cheers