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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

I agree that the cause doesn't matter in the long run, but I'm still not sure if it was nuclear or natural.



Rdanison wrote:
The cause of the devastation isn't important, it just happened.
What did happen is that a series of nuclear warheads detonated on the eastern Seaboard of the United States. We obviously retaliated. As the man gets closer to the coast, he witnesses Nagasaki and Hiroshima type vistas.
The Godspoke men are politicians who constantly refer to themselves as acting on behalf of God or heeding the Bible. Armageddon type stuff.
Natural disasters like a volcano are not to be heard or seen from inland America.
Asteroid impacts would not have produced the type of devastation that McCarthy writes about.
One of the central themes, Mans inhumanity to another man, is how the catastrophe starts.
And ultimately, unimportant.


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Rdanison
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

There isn't anything natural that would inflict the kind of damage McCarthy is writing about. Not Volcanoes and not an asteroid. He leaves out the word "nuclear" to avoid a reader being distracted by all the side issues that "nuclear" would encourage.
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Finns_dad
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

I think the "event" is deliberately left ambiguous. I see that a nuclear attack as the most likely cause, mainly from the rapidity that the power went out. An asteroid strike of that magnitude would have lead to massive earthquakes that would have been mentioned not to mention that many bridges and dams would have been destroyed. A mega volcano type scenario would give rise to the effects described in a localised area, but I cant see it having the effect of killing all living things, which are naturally quick to recolonise volvanic areas due to the fertilising nature of the ashfall. I also doubt such an event would have the effect of totally destroying civilisation. A nuclear war would have many of the effects mentioned, the burned cities, the melted glass etc, but there is no mention of radiation. In all posy apocalyptic novels, the survivors always have the fear of keeping clear of "hot" areas. I think that the vagueness of the disaster also leaves the door open for a biblical interpretation as well, this is my first post as I only read the book (twice) this weekend, but I feel the need to seek some meaning from it, as it effected me profoundly. I`m sure its been mentioned elsewhere but 1:17 could be interpreted as Genesis 17 which is Abraham being promised a son I believe. I also think the vista also has more than a feel of September the 11th and the scenes after the towers fell, with the ash covering everything. The vagueness also i think sets the scene for the disturbing unsettling feeling that the novel is pervaded with, like walking in a dark room, you just cant quite see whats there even though is vaguely familiar. Its a clever way of writing.
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Finns_dad
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

and another thing!! I have re-read the comments and wouldnt be overly dismissive of the literal apocalypse interpretation (just to play the devils avocado so to speak), the shear of light in the sky and the concussions, could they remind you of the "had of God" at the end of The Stand, and the "last trumps" (which of course herald the second coming). I think its important to recognise the efforts the author goes to indicate that the level of death and devastation is total. Migrating birds, heard once then never again, even the normally rapacious weeds like kudzu which are so difficult to erradicate are dead, and finally, (in a rather nice touch, and forgive me that Im not quoting verbatim), but he mentions a patch on a rock in the sea where seaweed might once have been (aargh, not even the seaweed survives), I think this is a recurring theme, drip drip throughout the book, that the earth is dead and beyond redemption, which counterpoints the strands of love that still exist, all else is gone but love? The total uniformity of the destruction is also "biblical" in that it would be expected that some areas, the southern hemisphere for example, would be less affected by a missile exchange or even a volcanic or meteor strike type scenario. Obviously there is a significant amount of ambient light during the day, rainfall and seasons, which should suport growth is some is going to happen, we all know that in a disaster with a large death toll, rats and flies and the like always do well on the new and unexpected food source, and despite the large numbers of bodies scattered around the place, there is never amention of a rat or a fly (with the exception that rats had chomped on a bag of cornmeal some time ago, but obvously not bothered coming back and eating it all. Such destruction accross all spectrum of life just isnt possible in the way that is described, unless a little "help from above" is added in. There is no desire of the father to try and get somewhere people might be, e.g. "tell you what son, we will head for southern mexico, there are people there" or something similar, obviously becasue he knows there is no safe haven to go to, the same as he dismisses the sons thought that there may be fish in the lake they pass, the father in the same way "knows" that there isnt. Whether the apocalypse is man or God made, the result is the same. Indeed, the "godspoke" reference would still fit, as if the meaning was "look, all of those people that professed to have faith or speak the word of god are all dead as well, they have taken their world of religion and false ressurection with them". Of course, I still believe the nuclear theory fits the closest but everyone has made valid points regarding the possible causes. I`m not sure that the love between the father and son is more unique than the religious implications of the symbols of story, and man would do exactly what the man in the book did for his son, and with the boys dad gone, the altruism in the son (and possibly his new family) is the only spark of hope we can draw from the book, unless you subscribe from the final paragraph that a new cycle of life on earth without man will start again. Personally, Im hoping that the boy isnt expecting a fly fishing rod for his next Christmas!
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

Great post of an explanation I've often considered. The son is certainly Christ/Messiah-like and could be a "second coming". Of what, I've know idea, as there ain't much left!




Finns_dad wrote:
and another thing!! I have re-read the comments and wouldnt be overly dismissive of the literal apocalypse interpretation (just to play the devils avocado so to speak), the shear of light in the sky and the concussions, could they remind you of the "had of God" at the end of The Stand, and the "last trumps" (which of course herald the second coming). I think its important to recognise the efforts the author goes to indicate that the level of death and devastation is total. Migrating birds, heard once then never again, even the normally rapacious weeds like kudzu which are so difficult to erradicate are dead, and finally, (in a rather nice touch, and forgive me that Im not quoting verbatim), but he mentions a patch on a rock in the sea where seaweed might once have been (aargh, not even the seaweed survives), I think this is a recurring theme, drip drip throughout the book, that the earth is dead and beyond redemption, which counterpoints the strands of love that still exist, all else is gone but love? The total uniformity of the destruction is also "biblical" in that it would be expected that some areas, the southern hemisphere for example, would be less affected by a missile exchange or even a volcanic or meteor strike type scenario. Obviously there is a significant amount of ambient light during the day, rainfall and seasons, which should suport growth is some is going to happen, we all know that in a disaster with a large death toll, rats and flies and the like always do well on the new and unexpected food source, and despite the large numbers of bodies scattered around the place, there is never amention of a rat or a fly (with the exception that rats had chomped on a bag of cornmeal some time ago, but obvously not bothered coming back and eating it all. Such destruction accross all spectrum of life just isnt possible in the way that is described, unless a little "help from above" is added in. There is no desire of the father to try and get somewhere people might be, e.g. "tell you what son, we will head for southern mexico, there are people there" or something similar, obviously becasue he knows there is no safe haven to go to, the same as he dismisses the sons thought that there may be fish in the lake they pass, the father in the same way "knows" that there isnt. Whether the apocalypse is man or God made, the result is the same. Indeed, the "godspoke" reference would still fit, as if the meaning was "look, all of those people that professed to have faith or speak the word of god are all dead as well, they have taken their world of religion and false ressurection with them". Of course, I still believe the nuclear theory fits the closest but everyone has made valid points regarding the possible causes. I`m not sure that the love between the father and son is more unique than the religious implications of the symbols of story, and man would do exactly what the man in the book did for his son, and with the boys dad gone, the altruism in the son (and possibly his new family) is the only spark of hope we can draw from the book, unless you subscribe from the final paragraph that a new cycle of life on earth without man will start again. Personally, Im hoping that the boy isnt expecting a fly fishing rod for his next Christmas!


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Finns_dad
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe



PaulH wrote:
Great post of an explanation I've often considered. The son is certainly Christ/Messiah-like and could be a "second coming". Of what, I've know idea, as there ain't much left!




Finns_dad wrote:
and another thing!! I have re-read the comments and wouldnt be overly dismissive of the literal apocalypse interpretation (just to play the devils avocado so to speak), the shear of light in the sky and the concussions, could they remind you of the "had of God" at the end of The Stand, and the "last trumps" (which of course herald the second coming). I think its important to recognise the efforts the author goes to indicate that the level of death and devastation is total. Migrating birds, heard once then never again, even the normally rapacious weeds like kudzu which are so difficult to erradicate are dead, and finally, (in a rather nice touch, and forgive me that Im not quoting verbatim), but he mentions a patch on a rock in the sea where seaweed might once have been (aargh, not even the seaweed survives), I think this is a recurring theme, drip drip throughout the book, that the earth is dead and beyond redemption, which counterpoints the strands of love that still exist, all else is gone but love? The total uniformity of the destruction is also "biblical" in that it would be expected that some areas, the southern hemisphere for example, would be less affected by a missile exchange or even a volcanic or meteor strike type scenario. Obviously there is a significant amount of ambient light during the day, rainfall and seasons, which should suport growth is some is going to happen, we all know that in a disaster with a large death toll, rats and flies and the like always do well on the new and unexpected food source, and despite the large numbers of bodies scattered around the place, there is never amention of a rat or a fly (with the exception that rats had chomped on a bag of cornmeal some time ago, but obvously not bothered coming back and eating it all. Such destruction accross all spectrum of life just isnt possible in the way that is described, unless a little "help from above" is added in. There is no desire of the father to try and get somewhere people might be, e.g. "tell you what son, we will head for southern mexico, there are people there" or something similar, obviously becasue he knows there is no safe haven to go to, the same as he dismisses the sons thought that there may be fish in the lake they pass, the father in the same way "knows" that there isnt. Whether the apocalypse is man or God made, the result is the same. Indeed, the "godspoke" reference would still fit, as if the meaning was "look, all of those people that professed to have faith or speak the word of god are all dead as well, they have taken their world of religion and false ressurection with them". Of course, I still believe the nuclear theory fits the closest but everyone has made valid points regarding the possible causes. I`m not sure that the love between the father and son is more unique than the religious implications of the symbols of story, and man would do exactly what the man in the book did for his son, and with the boys dad gone, the altruism in the son (and possibly his new family) is the only spark of hope we can draw from the book, unless you subscribe from the final paragraph that a new cycle of life on earth without man will start again. Personally, Im hoping that the boy isnt expecting a fly fishing rod for his next Christmas!







PaulH wrote:
Great post of an explanation I've often considered. The son is certainly Christ/Messiah-like and could be a "second coming". Of what, I've know idea, as there ain't much left!




Finns_dad wrote:
and another thing!! I have re-read the comments and wouldnt be overly dismissive of the literal apocalypse interpretation (just to play the devils avocado so to speak), the shear of light in the sky and the concussions, could they remind you of the "had of God" at the end of The Stand, and the "last trumps" (which of course herald the second coming). I think its important to recognise the efforts the author goes to indicate that the level of death and devastation is total. Migrating birds, heard once then never again, even the normally rapacious weeds like kudzu which are so difficult to erradicate are dead, and finally, (in a rather nice touch, and forgive me that Im not quoting verbatim), but he mentions a patch on a rock in the sea where seaweed might once have been (aargh, not even the seaweed survives), I think this is a recurring theme, drip drip throughout the book, that the earth is dead and beyond redemption, which counterpoints the strands of love that still exist, all else is gone but love? The total uniformity of the destruction is also "biblical" in that it would be expected that some areas, the southern hemisphere for example, would be less affected by a missile exchange or even a volcanic or meteor strike type scenario. Obviously there is a significant amount of ambient light during the day, rainfall and seasons, which should suport growth is some is going to happen, we all know that in a disaster with a large death toll, rats and flies and the like always do well on the new and unexpected food source, and despite the large numbers of bodies scattered around the place, there is never amention of a rat or a fly (with the exception that rats had chomped on a bag of cornmeal some time ago, but obvously not bothered coming back and eating it all. Such destruction accross all spectrum of life just isnt possible in the way that is described, unless a little "help from above" is added in. There is no desire of the father to try and get somewhere people might be, e.g. "tell you what son, we will head for southern mexico, there are people there" or something similar, obviously becasue he knows there is no safe haven to go to, the same as he dismisses the sons thought that there may be fish in the lake they pass, the father in the same way "knows" that there isnt. Whether the apocalypse is man or God made, the result is the same. Indeed, the "godspoke" reference would still fit, as if the meaning was "look, all of those people that professed to have faith or speak the word of god are all dead as well, they have taken their world of religion and false ressurection with them". Of course, I still believe the nuclear theory fits the closest but everyone has made valid points regarding the possible causes. I`m not sure that the love between the father and son is more unique than the religious implications of the symbols of story, and man would do exactly what the man in the book did for his son, and with the boys dad gone, the altruism in the son (and possibly his new family) is the only spark of hope we can draw from the book, unless you subscribe from the final paragraph that a new cycle of life on earth without man will start again. Personally, Im hoping that the boy isnt expecting a fly fishing rod for his next Christmas!





Hi Paul,

Just identified a possible glimmer of hope in the narrative. At one point, The Father on one of his foraging missions picks up a couple of packets of seeds and pockets them for some reason, I had the vision of them still being in his pocket and his body nourishing them to grow, marking his resting place with a little carpet of flowers, or am I being a chump?

K
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

A chump, no. So, you're saying the father becomes a fertilizer of sorts?
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe


PaulH wrote:
A chump, no. So, you're saying the father becomes a fertilizer of sorts?




You made me grin. (smile)
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

Hi there, Bentley. Don't know if you've popped by the Middlesex board, but the Oprah interview with Eugenides is airing 9/21. Hope all is well with you.
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bentley
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe



PaulH wrote:
Hi there, Bentley. Don't know if you've popped by the Middlesex board, but the Oprah interview with Eugenides is airing 9/21. Hope all is well with you.




Yes, I have..and commented..thanks. Everything is good and I just commented on the new Crime Club board..just picked up The Big Sleep, etc.

cya there.
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Quercusvirginiana
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

My first impression was nuclear winter too (especially with the ash) but there is no mention of radiation. That would be a primary concern to the man if the cause was nuclear.

The shaft of light followed by low concussions then suggests asteroid or other cosmic strike as opposed to a super volcano explosion.

The complete failure of all plant life is more than ash in the air and cold tempatures. Even in the most bleak environments on this planet, life prevails. The book suggests by all the flora standing dead some sort of pathogen that destroys flora. Even the mushrooms were all shriveled and dead. Life in the sea seemed to completely fail. The asteroid hit and the global ash alone would not explain it, since many wood frame buildings and forests seemed to survive intially. A massive asteroid impact (along the lines that wiped out the dinosaurs) would have destroyed almost all structures world wide--and while the extinction rate after that event was enormous, many animals survived. The devestation in The Road appears to be almost total. Perhaps a comet strike (which could also bring an alien pathogen)?

For purposes of the novel, the ambiguity is intentional. Is it the hand of God striking the earth or a man made catastrophe, or a bit of both?
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Finns_dad
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

yes, I think that we have all of the signs here of a classic "unclear disaster".

Ho Ho.
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mateosan
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Re: Early Reading: The Cause of the Catastrophe

I think this is left ambiguous. There are a few obvious ideas but nothing can completely explain all of the effects that they witness. Odd things are

The total loss of animal and plant life including all fish, migratory birds after a few years and even seaweed.
The earthquakes that they encounter
the fires high in the mountains
the continuing fires that are hot enough to melt the road
the burning of almost all plant life but not some houses, cities and other human structures.
The only living things are people and some dogs
There aren't any small animals around such as rats and the small animals are the things that generally survive these meteor strike type catastrophes
No bugs around and they would do OK in most common scenarios

The progressive cold is consistent with a nuclear winter, meteor strike, mass volcano activity or anything similar. The winter is caused by particles flung into the atmosphere that block the sun and meteors or volcanoes cause a similar nuclear winter effect. During years of major eruptions, such as Krakatoa, the temperature drops a tiny bit. There are geologic evidence of both major meteor strikes and massive volcano explosions. A meteor big enough to puncture the earth's crust could cause volcanic eruptions. Nuclear winter would not be that bad and would cause fallout.

Here is the list of possible catastrophes

Nuclear war
meteor/comet/asteroid strike
volcanic activity or other geological catastrophe
reversal of magnetic field that lets solar radiation fry the earth
massive solar flare or other solar event
literal act of God

None of these except a supernatural act of God seems to explain everything they see. These would also cause events that we don't see. Also we don't know how bad the devastation was in other areas. McCarthy seems to have created a unique and total catastrophe that would be a good setting for his book that had no scientific basis and leaves many unanswered questions.
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