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Registered: ‎11-13-2008
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Overall symbolism? What was the overall message of the book? (spoiler alert)

I just finished reading this last night and want to know what the overall symbols are.  In my gut I don't believe this story is about the environment, politics, or even father/son relationships.  It seems to me that it is about hope (or lack thereof), faith, religion, morals, and God.  I can't quite pin down the symbol, though, or the overall message of the book.  It feels like it is right on the tip of my tongue, but I can't articulate it yet.  Online searches for symbols didn't turn up much.

Pretty sure the boy represents mankind -- moral, hopeful, trusting mankind.

The father may represent mankind as well -- the practical, fierce, responsible side of humanity.  But here's another thought...

I wonder if the father represents God -- and he dies at the end?  This is an interesting idea.  The statements about "there is no God and we are his prophets" made me think about this, as well as the boy's statement that he had *no choice*except to trust his father.  Father/son relationships are very symbolic in Christianity and I wondered if their relationship was symbolic of the faithful in the midst of the secularization of society.  That is, our world is becoming darker and hopeless, God is "dying", but humanity (the boy) still clings to God because he has no choice.  Depending on how you look at the book this could be a criticism of religion or a lament that believers are becoming more-and-more rare as the world dies.

I think Ely, the thief, the family at the end, and the cannibals along the road all represent different aspects of humanity and religion -- that is, different ways mankind relates with God and each other.  Any ideas on this?

Seems that the road represents life -- it is ultimately hopeless (we all die eventually).  If this symbol is what McCarthy has in mind, it is a pretty grim view of life.  I mean, sure, we do all die, but there is color, love, and LIFE in the meantime.  In the book the characters just struggle for survival.

Death just looms ahead in this book -- I knew someone would die, and as I neared the end I turned the pages faster and faster, wondering why nothing had happened yet and there were only pages to go!  I suppose that is like our lives -- death is ever in front of us.  But the boy survives and there is hope for the future (a family, possible mate near his age).

Ultimately I think the book is about faith -- the only thing left after hope is gone.  This faith is "the fire" that the man and the boy carry -- not to be confused with a soul alone, which Ely or even the cannibals had, too.  The fact that the boy continued to "carry the fire" at the end was just beautiful and touching at the end.

Like I said, I just finished the book and these are just some shots in the dark on symbols.  I'd be interested to know what others think about possible non-environmental / non-political messages of the book.
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Registered: ‎09-16-2009
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Re: Overall symbolism? What was the overall message of the book? (spoiler alert)

         Of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Joseph Campbell said, "There is not one wasted syllable in this whole book."  I think the same must be true of Mr. McCarthy's The Road.

      One of many questions I have is why did the clocks stop at 1:17?  Apparently, 1;17 AM.  Why at that time.  Why not 2;24 or 6:21?  I thought I'd seen a reference to that somewhere, but I've lost it.

      Why 1:17? 

      I thought, look to the Bible, so I looked at Chapter One, Verse 17 in every book of the Bible, but nothing seemed to fit.  The best seems to be in Revelation, but even that doesn't tell me anything.

      Please help me out here, Friends.  I think The Road is one of the very best novbels ever written.

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Registered: ‎12-11-2009
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Re: Overall symbolism? What was the overall message of the book? (spoiler alert)

In my view the book is McCarthy's meditation on the elusiveness and ephemeral nature of "goodness" in the midst of a depraved, evil and ultimately dying world. 


In the book, the desire for "goodness" is heightened and intensified by the natural parental desire for one's children to be sheltered from evil and to experience only "goodness" in life.  However, the irony is that "goodness" can only be fully enjoyed and appreciated when one has some knowledge of the presence and reality of danger and evil. 


In the end, I believe that McCarthy is saying that seeking after goodness is futile; it is goodness that "finds" you.  And to give up hoping for that goodness is a perfectly reasonable temptation, albeit one with horrific consequences (suicide or cannibalism).  Those who hope for goodness to find them are the "carriers of the fire," and their number is small. 


This book is a commentary on modern society -- McCarthy, thinking about his relationship with his own son, is describing our present world as a wasteland full of dangers and evil.  He's describing the plight of every parent.  We seek "goodness" for our children but unexpectedly we find that for all our seeking we instead lead our children into new horrors of reality -- our kids are forced to "grow up" too soon, and all we can do is keep moving down the road, hoping against hope that "goodness" will find them.

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