The Concept of Familial Power in the Book The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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The concept of familial power is examined in the book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The Road explores the power of familial relationship to offer hope and redemption for humanity in a dystopian world devoid of societal power. While the poem “Father and Child” by Gwen Harwood describes the potential for personal power to be misused as an individual develops from innocence to experience.

The Road employs a dystopian setting where the power of family relationship is shown to offer humanity transcendence over enormous adversity.

The physical environment is “barren, silent and godless” and the child becomes his father’s warrant against death. We see the father saving the child because he believes that the boy is “carrying the fire”, which metaphorically represents the hope for humanity that the father has. Both characters witness inhumane activities such as human butchering in which the boy is unable to face from to his strong humanity. The destruction of the Coca Cola machine and “coins” dispersed among with the ash” symbolises the demolition of commercial values which allows readers to understand the lack of recognisable social and personal connections.

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A clear representation of humanity is reflected in the actions of the boy when he gives the “old man” something to eat. The use of correct punctuation, otherwise minimal in text when the boy serves the old man shows the development of his mental and spiritual side and the hope he is able to offer in the “senseless” world. This shows the humanity within the boy is used for the betterment by helping the old man.

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All of the situations prove that familial power offers humanity. Father and Child examine the personal power that is misused by the persona to show the lack of innocence. This is evident when the persona has no obedience towards her parents, “crept out with my father’s gun”. Harwood emphasise the disobedience through enjambment, “A horny fiend/ I crept out with my father’s gun”. This gives us a sense that she is hiding something from the readers exposing the actions due to her undeveloped mental state. We understand here how innocence of the girl causes her to be self-centred. “A wisp – haired judge whose law would punish beak and claw”, which allows readers to foreshadow the death of the owl. Through this we understand that misuse of personal power can bring destruction and revel the evil with is all. In contrast to The Road, when the boy has a lack of experience he exposes himself with great humanity due to protection from his father while in the poem the girl shows no humanity and misuses her personal power.

The Road also explores redemption where the power of family relationship is used as motivation to face dangerous and inhumane situations that both characters experience. The first sign of hope that keeps the father motivated is “the boy” who provides redemption as “light”. The child is his father’s “warrant” and this kept the father going. Thus the power of family relationship is used to recover what was damaged physically and mentally. In desperate moments the father emotively reflects that, “the boy was all that stood between him and death”, which suggests that relationships are essential to redeem for the all the evil seen. As the boy transitions from innocence to experience he begins to suspect the inhumanity of his “papa”, which is evident when the father shoots a man near the boy, causing the boy to lose trust. The boy’s relationship with his father is strengthened by the realisation that “if you died I would want to die too”. The boy realises the power of his father’s undying paternal love that empowers them both to survive the treacherous situation faced. We understand the familial power in the novel brings redemption.

The persona in Father and Child explores how the misuse of the personal power of an individual can lead to inhumane actions. We are able to foreshadow of the upcoming event in the juxtaposition, “Blessed by the Sun; A horny fiend”. The confusion created from the blessing of the sun and a small devil creates a mystery which is understood as death and destruction. Showing the changes from innocence to experience and how inhumane action occurs when personal power is misused. When the owl is shot, we a given a visual imagery of what has remained of the owl,”bundled if stuff that dropped and dribbled”. The persona shoots because no one gave advice during her change from innocence to experience, while in The Road the father has always protected his son and given many advices making him a better person. The thoughts that the persona has are in an enjambment, “No – Sayer, robbed of power by sleep”. This shows the harsh decision of the persona which exaggerates the slow and eerie sound proving that the misuse of personal power of individuality can lead to inhumane actions. Proving that misuse of individuality power leads to inhumane actions. In conclusion we understand the power of familial relationship is able to protect and bring humanity in both characters within The Road by Cormac McCarthy. While Father and Child by Gwen Harwood shows us how misuse of personal power causes inhumane actions.

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The Concept of Familial Power in the Book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (2022, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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