I just read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. At its highest level, the book is about a man and his son as they follow the road across a post-apocalyptic America. It is moving, thought-provoking and at once hopeless and hopeful.
For whatever reason (Hollywood? Optimism?), I glorify post-apocalyptic worlds into action movies that end with the “good guys” winning. I was ridiculously impressed with McCarthy’s stark realism in the picture he painted of our nuclear winter. This wasn’t glorified. This was real. Nothing can grow, because the sun is blocked. Ash is everywhere, color is a memory. There is no electricity and nights are a blinding black. Water and food are scarce. Hunger is always nearby. The world is ravaged and many simple items that you and I take for granted are gone forever. There is no hope in going back to what was before.
“The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it.”
This hopelessness is scary, because it’s not hard to imagine how we could quickly get there. But it also makes me incredibly thankful for everything that we have today, right now. Be it the color we enjoy in the world, animals, friendship, a warm house, or simply easy access to food, all of these things are gone in the flash of whatever disaster happened.
“Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”
The man and his son face trial upon trial as they walk the road across a desolate America. Many times they encounter other humans who have resorted to simple thievery, murder or even cannibalism. The man often assures his son that the two of them are the “good guys” who are carrying the fire of goodness and civilization. Yet, throughout the book, it’s questionable how good anyone can be when they are selfishly fighting for their survival. Often, despite his lack of education compared to the man, it is the boy who does the teaching through his compassion as he grows up in a world that his father was forced into.
Ultimately, the bond between the man and his son highlights the importance of love in the face of everything, even something as grim as the world nearing an end. It’s all that gets one through the day. And it certainly makes days all the more beautiful, whether in this world, or the one depicted in “The Road”.
I highly recommend picking up a copy.