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Erato
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Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

[ Edited ]
12. Why do you think McCarthy ends the novel with the image of trout in mountain streams before the end of the world—"In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery" [p. 287]. What is surprising about this ending? Does it provide closure, or does it prompt a rethinking of all that has come before? What does it suggest about what lies ahead?
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For most of the book, we see nothing but dead landscape and struggles. Then in those last few sentences.......WOW!

Such beautiful prose...it's almost 'psalm-like'.

I think it agonizes over the world that was lost when our world morphed into high tech and left behind the essence of nature in our lives....of mother earth before being ravished and plundered....all we've lost. And reminding us that once we lose it, it can never be put back.
That our world once "hummed" with the mystery of nature. These things older than man.

I need to read it yet again!

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-24-200708:02 AM

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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

For most of the book, we see nothing but dead landscape and struggles. Then in those last few sentences.......WOW!

Such beautiful prose...it's almost 'psalm-like'.

I think it agonizes over the world that was lost when our world morphed into high tech and left behind the essence of nature in our lives....of mother earth before being ravished and plundered....all we've lost. And reminding us that once we lose it, it can never be put back.
That our world once "hummed" with the mystery of nature. These things older than man.

I need to read it yet again!




I agree with your take on this fateful last passage, Erato. But it then begs the question...is The Road ultimately a pessimistic work? Is the father's and the son's optimism false?
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Mariposa
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

It is the last sentence that perplexes me. To quote myself from the Community Room:


Does the ending really resolve the issue of man's survival?
"In the deep glens where they lived (I guess the fish) all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery." Is that the mystery of life in its earliest stages? A rebirth? A new beginning? Or is McCarthy not telling us and that is the "mystery"?

Okay. I think I have a theory. If in the deep glens where the fish lived all things were older than man (what things were older than man?) and they (the things older than man) hummed of mystery, then that is the beginnings of new life. Yes.

Paul, I believe you said just about the same thing somewhere else. Amoebas etc. Some life older than man stirring up again.

But if those things older than man that hummed of mystery is the hope of the future, that puts us all the way back to the beginning of the beginning of the evolutionary process.

And then what about the boy being the symbol of hope in the book? If the the things older than man are the hope of the future, where does that put the boy who carries the fire?????

As Erato said, I am back to the book again for more clues.


Lizabeth
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

[ Edited ]
"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains".

I think the key word here is "once". The trout and nature as it once was is gone and "could not be put back."

While certainly a doom and gloom thought, I don't think that neccesarily rules out man's survival. If we look to the morels and the apples they found, the world still has the power to regenerate. Also, the woman's words in the next to last paragraph do offer further hope; especially her last line: "She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time."

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-24-200708:46 AM

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-24-200708:46 AM

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fictionweaver
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

I don't know where I'm going with this, but here goes...the rememberance of trout in the river reminded me of Hemingway's trout in his short story THE BIG TWO HEARTED RIVER. That story is about a solider's frist fishing trip after he returns from war. Like McCarthy's landscape, but to a lesser degree, the forest of Michigan's upper pinensula has been burned over. Nick Adams can hardly find his way. But he does and he fishes the river. But he doesn't fish for the greatest trout, which he knows is there. It seems to be about reverence for life, survival, and respect for life's mysteries. All of which must have been challenged by Nick Adams' (the narrator's or point of view character's) experiences in the war. Understandable. Leaving the trout in the river seemed to me Nick Adams' step away from further distruction. The trout will live its life span and the forest will regenerate. And so, too, will Nick Adams. I thought the (somewhat similar) last section of THE ROAD was stunning in its emotional impact because, for me, it too was about life, survival, and mysteries of life. With one difference. It made me feel that, if such magnificent life exsisted before man, it's entirely possible that magnificent life will exsist after man perishes from this earth. Not exactly a Hollywood ending, but - given our current ways - something to be deeply desired.

I guess my only question is - - Who is remembering the trout in the glen?
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)



fictionweaver wrote:
I don't know where I'm going with this, but here goes...the rememberance of trout in the river reminded me of Hemingway's trout in his short story THE BIG TWO HEARTED RIVER. That story is about a solider's frist fishing trip after he returns from war. Like McCarthy's landscape, but to a lesser degree, the forest of Michigan's upper pinensula has been burned over. Nick Adams can hardly find his way. But he does and he fishes the river. But he doesn't fish for the greatest trout, which he knows is there. It seems to be about reverence for life, survival, and respect for life's mysteries. All of which must have been challenged by Nick Adams' (the narrator's or point of view character's) experiences in the war. Understandable. Leaving the trout in the river seemed to me Nick Adams' step away from further distruction. The trout will live its life span and the forest will regenerate. And so, too, will Nick Adams. I thought the (somewhat similar) last section of THE ROAD was stunning in its emotional impact because, for me, it too was about life, survival, and mysteries of life. With one difference. It made me feel that, if such magnificent life exsisted before man, it's entirely possible that magnificent life will exsist after man perishes from this earth. Not exactly a Hollywood ending, but - given our current ways - something to be deeply desired.

I guess my only question is - - Who is remembering the trout in the glen?




Great thoughts here, fictionweaver. I recently read an interview with John Sepich, a noted McCarthy scholar, who actually equated the novel to man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, which is a fascinating take and certainly echoes your own thoughts nature-wise.

As for who is remembering... it could be the woman from the paragraph before or it could be the "omniscient" narrator that McCarthy slips in here and there throughout the book.
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maxcat
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

I think it is the beginning of time and the world is starting anew. Did we not pass a passage which said something about hydrangeas growing that the wind and ash hadn't gotten to? The world is finally beginning to thrive and optimism abounds. The boy will make after all and there will be no more bleak world.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?



maxcat wrote:
I think it is the beginning of time and the world is starting anew. Did we not pass a passage which said something about hydrangeas growing that the wind and ash hadn't gotten to? The world is finally beginning to thrive and optimism abounds. The boy will make after all and there will be no more bleak world.




Interesting. I got the feeling it was referring back to a time before man as well and that this time sans humans has returned.
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maxcat
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

Well, think of it this way...yes, it's a world before humans appeared. Isn't that how our world started? Just flora and fauna. I think that is what is happening here, things are growing. All the people from the catastrophe die off and things start to grow, a rebirth, if you will. The new world is emerging after the old one dies out. But, in theory, do you think this new world will make it? Do you think it will make the same mistakes we are making right now with greenhouse gases and nuclear buildups and war? Or do you think this new world will learn from our past mistakes?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?



maxcat wrote:
Well, think of it this way...yes, it's a world before humans appeared. Isn't that how our world started? Just flora and fauna. I think that is what is happening here, things are growing. All the people from the catastrophe die off and things start to grow, a rebirth, if you will. The new world is emerging after the old one dies out. But, in theory, do you think this new world will make it? Do you think it will make the same mistakes we are making right now with greenhouse gases and nuclear buildups and war? Or do you think this new world will learn from our past mistakes?




I'm not so sure there is a rebirth, maxcat. Two haunting lines of that passage are as follows:

"Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again."
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maxcat
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

Maybe so, but the last line says " In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery". Doesn't that suggest that the world went back to a time earlier than man's existence?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?



maxcat wrote:
Maybe so, but the last line says " In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery". Doesn't that suggest that the world went back to a time earlier than man's existence?




I read it as a remembrance of the past. It's a memory of a pre-human world, before mankind tainted and ultimately destroyed it.
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eosxt
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

If you go back to p 41 - 42 (paperback) the father remembers back to when trout used to swim in the rivers. I'm sure the ending is somehow connected to that. Any ideas on the connection? The ending in general seems hopeful to me, except for the part about the trout - "Of a thing which could not be put back. Not made right again."
Then you get to the very last line and the fact that they "hummed of mystery" could lead to some hope that there is some unseen hope. On the negative side, everything about the trout is in past tense. The trout symbolizes nature, beauty, life and hope, if the trout are no longer then it seems there is no longer any hope.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?



eosxt wrote:
If you go back to p 41 - 42 (paperback) the father remembers back to when trout used to swim in the rivers. I'm sure the ending is somehow connected to that. Any ideas on the connection? The ending in general seems hopeful to me, except for the part about the trout - "Of a thing which could not be put back. Not made right again."
Then you get to the very last line and the fact that they "hummed of mystery" could lead to some hope that there is some unseen hope. On the negative side, everything about the trout is in past tense. The trout symbolizes nature, beauty, life and hope, if the trout are no longer then it seems there is no longer any hope.




I definitely think there's a connection to the earlier reference to trout and the ending of the novel, but I see both parts as less then hopeful. As you point out, they're past tense references.

The hope I gleaned from the book is that some good people still exist and there seems to be some limited regeneration as seen with the mushrooms and the apples.
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PaulFrancis
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end?

I think eosxt made an insightful connection between the two passages (page 42 and the final paragraph). Right now the mystery can be observed by human beings.

The memory recalled on page 42 speaks of a relationship forged between mans' inventiveness and nature, "Reflecting back the sun deep in the darkness like a flash of knives in a cave." A knife is a human made object (tool or weapon) reflecting light. Sun light is an element of mans' environment, the source of which he cannot control or influence. Humans cannot contribute to the destiny of the sun. We harness, and protect ourselves from, it's energy. Humans can affect the destiny of life on Earth. We can and we did in The Road. I'm assuming the mass destruction was caused by a human action. In an elegant irony, the energy radiated by the sun is very much like the energy that destroyed the planet.

The human and nature relationship is tenuous. We are of nature, but simultaneously desire to control it. Humans tamper with every element of the environment and have the potential to extinguish the things that hum with mystery. The lesson I take away is that societies (and certain ones in particular) have the power to inexorably change all the earthly things we often take for granted.

The author does not leave many avenues for hope. On pg 244 (paperback) the man and boy have a discussion about the possibility of human life on other planets and the father doubts that it has blossomed anywhere else. In a poignant line the boy says, "I don't know what we are doing." This is a statement that the leaders of the world (and the followers that influence the leaders of the world) must intimately understand.

The hum of mystery will always exist, it just may not continue to be witnessed by human beings.
jed
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jed
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

I actually felt that this was contrived. When I read the book I tried very hard to appreciate the allegorical references. It is a dark and bleak novel. For me, it is also a very contrived work. I am frankly amazed at the positive reviews it has received.
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DanSolo
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

I don't have the book to hand, but I seem to remember the word "often" being in the text in conjunction with the "She said that the breath of God was his breath". This makes me think they survive, i.e. the woman says this to the boy often. I have no explanation for the fish bit yet. It actually all seems slightly overblown to me and, while it sounds great, I'm not sure it adds much to the book.
Don't get me wrong, I think this is one of the best books I've read (be it SF or nay), but does the "morels" the man finds not sound like a rather hamfisted allusion to "morals" and how they may be about the only things left alive on earth?
Also, another question if I may... what are the "communes" eating? Morels? Hydroponic spinach?
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Flozza
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

Hi,

When I read the book I was completely lost by the ending, but re-reading and thinking about it, and reading your posts have given me a couple of ideas. There may be lots of holes in my arguements though!!

I see the "mystery" and things enduring meaning the recreation of the world, and it starting annew without the corrupted human race....in the deepest part of the world life survives to eventually grow again, whilst all that is familiar to the world before, like the trout, has passed away. In this new world, could it be that an innocent like the boy - who had not experienced the world before will survive to create a new world, like an 'adam' figure. The boy is refered to several times as a god, or like a god, and seems a figure of hope to me, so perhaps is him, and the others who are 'good' like him that do this and the world is in the hands of those who are born after. I thought with this point it was interesting that his new family had children as well. The people like his father, who have experienced the corrupt world are eventually to die out - leaving the world in the hands of those with no memories. Several times the boy mentions that he doesn't want to hear stories, and that they are not real - so he is unwilling to take the image of the old world into his future.

Does any of this make sense?????
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Eric_Phail
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

See I took the ending to imply that the planet has, or will, undergo some form of massive self-correction. Presumably whatever event or events caused the world to become how we see it in The Road were done by man, and so to me the ending meant that maybe all the 'evil' in the world had been purged (I say this with a nod to the various Noahs Ark references I've read on some threads), and the good few who are 'carrying the fire'are left to rebuild the world anew?
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
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late_night_procrastinator
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Re: Meaning of the Trout at the end? (SPOILER WARNING)

I may not know what I am talking about, but rememmer how throughout the book McCarthy is always talking about dreams? Well, after I read the book, I thought it was REALLY odd that there was a happy ending. If anyone has read his other books, they do not end well. It was just such an unhappy book. At first I thought that the boy had died. Then I realized that he was dreaming (contrary to Oprah book club people think). The Man had talkied about how the Boy was the only thing keeping him from slipping into a world of dreams. The Boy would not have had anything to wake up for, and so he would have died. The trout, I think, is just making that more clear. Things that had existed before the event exist only in people's dreams. The world (or at least America, it is never made clear how big this thing is) is still f***ed. I don't think it is me being a pessimist, I am pretty sure it is just a really depressing book that would not have a happy ending.

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