ENQuestion

What are some key passages in The Road by Cormac McCarthy that indicate the theme of journey?

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What are some key passages in The Road by Cormac McCarthy that indicate the theme of journey?

“The Road” contains many words and phrases that suggest journey. The physical road is a good symbol and one of the characters makes reference to it throughout the book. They are going somewhere, but where exactly they do not know.

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| Certified Educator

The physical road itself is a good symbol for the journey theme. The Man and The Boy are both using the road to get to their destination. They are heading toward the ocean. They get sidetracked every now and again, but the road is their access point for moving forward. Therefore, a quote that specifically highlights that characteristic of the physical road would be a good quote. The following quote is a good example.

In those first years the roads were peopled with refugees shrouded up in their clothing. Wearing masks and goggles, sitting in their rags by the side of the road like ruined aviators. Their barrows heaped with shoddy. Towing wagons or carts.

I like this quote because it shows how the road and a journey are not limited to only The Man and The Boy. We do not know why the world is like it is, but this quote shows that many people survived in the beginning. Additionally, the roads are filled with people. They are towing their belongings or survival tools. They are not staying at home. They are all going somewhere.

This next quote also works well:

Out there was the gray beach with the slow combers rolling dull and leaden and the distant sound of it. Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. Out on the tidal flats lay a tanker half careened. Beyond that the ocean vast and cold and shifting heavily like a slowly heaving vat of slag and then the gray squall line of ash. He looked at the boy. He could see the disappointment in his face. I’m sorry it’s not blue, he said. That’s okay, said the boy.

This quote and section of the book is a hugely disappointing moment for The Boy and for readers. The two main characters have been on their journey for a long time, and they are continually hoping that things will be better on the coast. Unfortunately, the world is just as bleak and gray. They have reached their destination, and nothing has improved. You could use this quote on a deeper more metaphorical level too. If you want to think of life as a journey, you cannot assume that things will be better at the end of the journey. Your journey might be bleak, and the destination might be just as bad.



| Certified Educator

Wow, where to start.  Journey is a good theme to discuss with this novel, but journey can be expressed and explored in many different ways where McCarthy’s story is concerned, so let me give you a few quotes and ideas to explore, along with some key passages that reflect this theme.

Can I ask you something? he said.
Yes. Of course.
Are we going to die?
Sometime. Not now.

Life is a journey too, even in the best of circumstances.  Life in The Road is not the best of circumstances, by any means, but the boy’s father is quite certain that he’s not done living yet, that some of his life journey is yet to be played out.

It took two days to cross that ashen scabland. The road beyond fell away on every side. It’s snowing, the boy said. He looked at the sky. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom.

There is literal, physical journey: the long march through the days of attempted survival, trying to reach the ocean.  I like this passage because everything, the landscape and the seasons themselves seem to be just barely hanging on to the edge of existence.  It is one of the strongest themes of the story, in my opinion.

He walked out into the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of an intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.

This is a mental journey.  The slow, relentless realization that all is for naught.  It is the journey his wife completed before him, and that led to her death by suicide.

There are certainly more to choose from, but that will get you started.

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