October 21, 2010
By: Cormac McCarthy
Published: Vintage; January 1, 2006
In the world of "The Road" depicted by Cormac McCarthy, the few people still alive suffer from starvation and despair due to an apocalyptic event that is never explained. Life is sparse, with very few plants, animals, or humans, many of whom are cannibals.
"The Road" is about a father and son’s quest through this dangerous land in search of food and warmth, while trying to avoid certain death at the hands of other survivors. This isn’t a typical post-apocalyptic novel. It is far from cliché because of the author’s unique style and dark mood.
The writing style in the novel is unorthodox. McCarthy doesn’t use quotation marks to indicate dialogue between two characters, and many of his sentences are fragments. The main characters do not have names; they are referred to simply as “the man” or “the boy.” The Road also doesn’t have any chapters.
The lack of conventional writing techniques makes the novel interesting but challenging. For example, the lack of chapters was a slight nuisance because I like to stop reading at chapter breaks. Also, the lack of quotation marks can be confusing because sometimes it is hard to tell who is speaking. Many times, I had to retrace the conversation so I could figure out who was saying what. In addition, McCarthy never uses tags like “he said” or “she said.” This creates some ambiguity that is exacerbated by the use of fragments and incomplete clauses.
For example, on the very first page of the novel, McCarthy sets the scene:
“Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease.”
Although the bizarre composition was sometimes frustrating, it was also engaging and in line with the mood of the novel.
Despite the depressing tone, the book is quite entertaining. While reading, I wanted to know what woeful event would fall upon the man and the boy, and how they would get through their days. Most of the time, the duo barely has enough food to survive, and their encounters with other people are mostly negative. I was interested in the innovative survival skills that the man had. Every time the duo found a useful item, I was both happy and relieved. However, people who enjoy feel-good novels full of laughter and hope will be disappointed.
I would recommend "The Road" to any age reader, but mostly to people over the age of 13 due to the uncommon writing style and some graphic situations. However, people should read this book not only for the story, but also for the unique experience. Overall, "The Road" is an interesting novel that is hard to put down.
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