The Barely Livable Earth in The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Earth is barely liveable anymore; the sun is rarely seen, and it rains ash on a regular basis. In The Road by Cormac McCarthy people do whatever they can to survive, which can mean taking from others, to some that means lives and flesh. It is not that the people are bad but now the Earth is a horrible place to try to live. Anyone left is in a primal state of mind one only focused in survival. However, The Road still manages to put forward an uplifting view of humanity using the boy.

The boy is a constant throughout the book, a moral compass always there to make sure they’re still the good guys.
The father is surrounded by men who literally want to eat him, but his son makes sure they never shatter their moral compass. In a world where the sun does not shine, it rains ash more than rain, some resort to cannibalism. Even when savages are chasing them, his son is a reminder not to stray away from their morals.

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Even just coming across a single old man; the boy reminds him to be generous: “You should thank him you know, the man said. I wouldn’t have given you anything.” (McCarthy 173). The father was ready to leave this old man in the dust the moment they crossed paths. The boy doesn’t let him, and what the father said proves the boy pushed him into helping the old man. This is important distinction because their generosity is normally directly linked to the child begging for it.

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If you look for it, the child is always the one pushing for generosity and sharing. If it was up to the father no one would get anything at all. The boy is almost a living conscience for the father, especially when a thief takes everything they had, or when someone lunges for the boy and puts a knife to him the man kills him with little hesitation. This left “The boy clutching his forehead, covered with gore and mute as a stone” probably just in total shock over what just happened. It does not matter to the boy, he is still able to be the word of god his father says he is. He just witnessed his father kill someone and barely changed, it is not much different when someone tries to take their cart. To us their cart is an unimportant possession we see everywhere. To them their cart is how they tote everything around and when the thief takes it, the cart is full with everything they own in the world. “You took everything.
Come on, man. I’ll die. I’m going to leave you the way you left us… Let’s go, he said. And they set out along the road south with the boy crying” ( McCarthy 257 – 258 ). Even after all the horrible things the boy had seen, being taken at knife point, and then having a thief steal everything they had, both of these events have had little impact on him. The boy is still a conscience for the man, reminding him some of things he is doing are not all good. The boy in The Road sees a lot of immoral things but still maintains a strong sense of right and wrong. Because conditions are so bad on Earth the father focuses on survival and the boy focuses on their actions. In a post apocalyptic world one has to expand his or her moral compass, and some actions become acceptable when they would not have been before. The good people left in the world steal and kill to defend themselves. The bad people left in the world kill people to eat them. The father is a good example, he is a good person from what we see. However, he has to do some bad things to stay alive. Stealing has become second nature by now, he has killed someone to protect his son and strips a thief down to legitimately nothing. He had to do these things and probably feels bad about it. However, his son won’t let him forget; every step along way if the father is about to do something immoral the son begs him not to do it and turn around. The Road puts forward an uplifting view of humanity. The boy is a gleam of hope for the world, he represents good in a world where bad has become the normal. He is very much a diamond in the rough; and he carries the concept of morality with him like he has no option.

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The Barely Livable Earth in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (2022, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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