The Road: Opening to page 35

1. Describe the tone, mood and atmosphere of the opening pages of the novel. Examine the dream in the opening pages as a way of establishing a sense of foreboding.

The mood and atmosphere in the beginning of the book is very dreary, dark and desolate . It gives a sense of unease as there is no one around except for the man and the boy. Not a sound is made. The fact that the man states that it’s not safe on the road anymore now that it is day sets a very dark and foreboding atmosphere.

The dream in the opening sequence establishes a sense of foreboding by describing the cave they are wondering in as “the inside of some gigantic beast”. It’s as if they are trying to find a way out, to escape the beast. The shadows created by the light also make it seam as if the darkness surrounds them and they are trapped. However, it’s the creature within the cave which rally brings out a sense of foreboding as they can see it’s bright white eyes clearly in the darkness. They know the creature is blind because of it’s shite eyes, but the man can’t help but feel as if it will find them using their other senses and attack.

  • doesn’t trust his dreams
    • p 268


2. Find details which describe the landscape in these pages. Overall, what image does McCarthy create of the devastation of the earth in this world?

  • “nights dark beyond darkness and the days more grey each one than what had gone before”

The image McCarth creates is a world full of darkness and danger. The days are bleak and the nights are filled with danger and the unknown. The novel also states that the man has a motorcycle mirror attached to the cart so he can see if there is any danger behind them. It’s as if there is no more happiness in the world, only a sense of danger and need to survive.

  • everyday, it’s seems as if the world is giving up
    • man feels as if world is getting darker
  • McCarthy’s language is quite baron and bare:
    • the devoid of poetic techniques and bluntness emphasises how horrible this world is
  • “God-less” – world is so dark, even god is not there
    • God usually symbolises hope and faith, it being a “God-less” world means that the people have given up on hope and faith
  • Fire: hope or general perseverance?

3.  What kind of journey are the man and his son on? Where is the evidence for this?

  • They are on a journey for survival. On page 4, the man states that they were moving south for the winter as they wouldn’t survive another winter in their current location. They’re moving south get get warm.
    • migration: reducing them to animals, not a journey they are taking willingly
    • one of necessity, must keep moving to survive

4. Describe their relationship using evidence to support your ideas.

The man and boy have a father-son relationship. This can easily be seen in the first couple sentences of the novel, where the man goes to put his hand on his son to make sure h’s still alive and breathing. This relationship is further proven when the boy asks what his father would do of he died, to which he replied “i would die too,” so he could be with his son.

  • The boy has a lot of questions of what is going on and the man answers – gives us an insight into teh world they live in
  • They have a strong, protective bond, the boy relies on man for survival, boy is the only thing the man has
  • Man takes care of boy and makes sure he lives
  • There a lot of times where the boy is taking care of the man in a way the man doesn’t imagine
    • kid cares for him and wants to protect him from himself
      • “that’s not true, i worry about things too.”
  • Care’s about the boy enough to teach him how to effectively kill himself should anything happen to the man
    • kid would be safer if he was dead, there would be no more suffering
    • Man almost did it himself once to “save him”

5. Memories of the past come to the man’s mind – what kind of memories are they? What importance might they have?

The memories the man has are ones full of how things used to be, of the “better world”. They are ones filled with happiness and life, which is a complete contrast to his reality. These memories serve him as a reason to keep fighting for survival, so that maybe, one day, the world won’t be so bad anymore.

6. What do you notice about the narrative style of writing? What might be the reason for choices McCarthy makes stylistically? Look at the effects of crafting such as: use of imagery, poetic and metaphoric features, syntax and punctuation, other?

  • Each paragraph is like a short snippet of everyday life for the man and the boy. This way, it really allows the reader to easily come to terms with the situation the characters are facing and what everyday life is like.
  • Some of the main literary devices that stand out for me is the use of diction, imagery and structure. The words used in The Road are simple enough to immediately understand what is happening as well and easily conveys the atmosphere and mood set. The use of imagery also helps with setting the scene as it is easily able to convey that sense of foreboding and unease felt within the novel. It is also able to easily convey the feeling of happiness when describing the man’s dreams. The use of structure is also really effective as each paragraph/scene is short, which forces the author to choose words which would quickly describe what is happening, before moving onto the next scene. It’s used as if to illustrate everyday life and the hardships they face.


  • McCarthy sets up that humans make rational decisions, which is untrue
    • they have to think rationally in order to survive, but even that is based on irrationality?
      • Irrationality that hope is there driving force
  • There are always some people who manage to survive even the worst of times – interesting how McCarthy doesn’t show us the ending
  • Hope is engrained within us since we were kids because of stories
  • Innocence vs experience: difference between children and adults
    • kid is hopeful and wants to help everyone he can
    • man is more suspicious of people and knows how to survive
  • Wants the boy to carry on in resilience