reading can seriously damage your ignorance
After The Narrow Road to the Deep North I set out on another road. I heard some good comments on The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The blurb says:
A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly fot he coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and each other.
Ok, man and a boy walking through a dystopian world of ash. They have nothing except each other. The tediousness of such a blurb paradoxically makes it interesting. For how can a novel keep your attention with such a plot?
I am half way through the novel and I must say, I’m interested. I think this has mainly to do with the fact that I am reminded of the AMC series The Walking Dead (based on the comic series with the same name). As with The Road, the story of The Walking Dead also follows a plot line with a man with his son, namely Rick and Carl Grimes. Both couples share, of course, the anxiety of the father over his early maturing son and the son who becomes a man much earlier than he is supposed to be because of the horrors he has faced. The difference is that the emptiness in McCarthy’s world is filled by zombies in The Walking Dead. While I am reading The Road I can’t help expecting some ‘biters’ (as the zomies in The Walking Dead are called) coming around the corner or lurking in a cellar.
Both worlds share the dystopian emptiness. Empty streets, empty houses, empty roads. They also share the desperation of the few survivors. Some are good, others are bad and confrontation is avoided as much as possible. Food is scarce, just like ammunition, batteries and fresh water. But where the world of The Road offers nothing but ash, derelict and decay, The Walking Dead is more hopeful with its communities and ‘greenness’. The grass still grows, there are no big fires ravaging over the land, but most of all, people have something to fight.
The man and the boy have a single goal, going south, but they can’t fight or confront the disaster that has swept over the land. They can only deal with its outcome, its consequences. In The Walking Dead people fight the zombies, they know what they are up against, which gives you as a viewer a focal point. In The Road the only thing you have is the road to be walked on.
Ironically, the walking dead are mentioned in The Road, but the term is not meant for walking zombies, it is for the people:
We’re survivors he told her across the flame of the lamp.
Survivors? she said.
What in God’s name are you talking about? We’re not survivors. We’re the walking dead in a horror film.
(TR, p. 57)
This gives an interesting perpective on the The Walking Dead as well, because both the biters as the people could be seen as walking dead. The biters because they already are dead and the people because their chances of survival are very slim.
Although only a fraction of that what happens in The Walking Dead has been faced by the man and the boy in The Road. As a reader I am curious where it leads to in this dying world without hope. It seems the road is symbolizes that which keep us going, maybe it represents hope itself. Maybe both the man and boy walk through a kind of purgatory or hell (with the ash as a hint). Only one way to find out: read on.