Cormac McCarthy’s pulitzer prize (2007) winning novel,
The Road, published in 2006 by Knopf feels and reads like
a contemporary Catholic morality play.
In the good old days (before the Reformation) morality
plays were created to instruct listeners on the means of
receiving redemption. Personifications of moral
attributes prompted the protagonist to choose between
good and evil.
There are plenty of moral attributes along this road.
Perhaps the first we encounter in this post-apocalyptic
wasteland is the invisible and absent god of The Man.
“Will I see you at the last?” he asks the god. “Have you
a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn
you eternally have you a soul?”
Though walking along this particular road (or path) is
devastatingly brutal and the reader knows the man and his
child would be safer to travel off road, we follow along
hoping for salvation.
No one has ever said that taking the higher road is easy;
in fact, throughout literary history, we see that the
higher road is always more difficult.
Our heroes are not always crucified (hint), but some come
pretty close to it. From Odysseus to Frodo, our heroes
tend to suffer brutal trials, but through their quest
along that higher moral ground, they come through better
And this is where McCarthy diverges from traditional
literary hero making. This work is unique in that we know
the man is a hero, because of his “good acts”, but we’re
left wondering at the end if he is better for it?
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