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The Light and Fire in a Post-Apocalyptic Road

The road that symbolizes a journey, a conquest, and a test for survival in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road plays with our senses to describe a world of anguish and despair where humanity needs hope and a saviour to stop the disasters that, in the first place, started from humanity itself.


         This is my second time reading The Road and find McCarthy's way to play with light more defining than ever. The author emphasizes the contrasts light exposes to underline the good-evil binary paradigm we all assume. Examples such as the shadows from the boy (31), the hope present as a fire from within the good guys expecting to find the light at the end of the tunnel that will bring them triumphant because “it’s inside you” ... “it was always there,” (279) are some among them. In addition, this message comes with mystical touches. At times the boy is portrayed as a divine figure: “golden chalice, good to house a God,” (64) ... “he watched him come through the grass and there was light all about him,” (277).


         The fire that signifies their faith that never extinguishes despite their misery brings up mystical connotations such as the needed messianic expectation. The conversation between old Ely and Papa brings up, on the one hand, the believe that finding the light is possible, while on the other hand, there is a realistic skepticism a person faces through desolating times:


Ely: “When I saw that boy, I thought that I had died.”

Papa: “You thought he was an angel?”

Ely: “I didn’t know what he was.”

Papa: “What if I said that he’s a god?”

Ely: “Where men can’t live gods fare no better,” (172).


        The order is distorted, or what it should be considered as order within this catastrophic world, is embodied in the boy’s father. The central reference of the boy and his trust in his father is what keeps him alive; they both sustain each other’s faith, “we are still the good guys, we always will be,” (77) as “nothing is going to happen to us because we’re carrying the fire,” (83). Again, the fire that needs to ignite to carry the light of hope. A child and his father taking a post-apocalyptic road stresses a boy carrying an undoubtedly trust in the man, his questions bring reassurance, does not succumb to death. Keeping that fire burning ensures the faith for survival. More so, the boy’s ability to continue with this quest despite the great loss of his father seems to claim that there must be a sacrifice in order to succeed for the good for humanity.

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© 2020 by Walter Luzzi