The Road

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The Boy Character Analysis

The man’s son, a young boy who was born just after the nameless apocalypse. The boy is defined by his relationship with his father, on whom he depends for survival, and his own innate kindness and innocence. The boy constantly asks the man questions, looking for reassurance and some kind of order in the world. Despite the horrible circumstances he has grown up in, the boy is the most compassionate and pure character of the book. He trusts almost everyone he meets on the road, and wants to help them by taking them along or giving away precious food. This is mostly childish naiveté, but the boy also feels like he is bearing the moral responsibility of the pair, making sure he and the man act ethically and remain as the “good guys.” The man looks at the boy as a kind of religious figure, a golden-haired angel who is a last bastion of humanity and purity, while the man himself is willing to use violence to protect the boy’s life. When the man dies the boy continues on, though he continues to talk to the man in his head.

The Boy Quotes in The Road

The The Road quotes below are all either spoken by The Boy or refer to The Boy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Road published in 2008.
Pages 1-29 Quotes

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

Related Characters: The Man, The Boy
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

In the opening scene of the novel, McCarthy establishes the close relationship between the Man and the Boy. The chapter, and almost all of the book, is narrated from the Man's point of view--not the boy's. There's something sweet and gentle about the Man's love for his child, but there's also something unshakably sad. As we soon learn, the Man is living in a hellish, post-apocalyptic America, and the Boy is all he has--his wife has killed herself.

There's also a more desperate side to the Man's love for his Boy, as we'll see later on. It's often suggested that the Boy is the Man's only reason for living and maintaining hope and sanity, so part of the Man's fierce love for his son is almost selfish--trying to maintain his own survival, his own sense of meaning in a brutal, chaotic world.

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He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

Related Characters: The Man, The Boy
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Why continue living in a post-apocalyptic world, where even breathing the air is painful? In this passage, McCarthy gives a possible answer to the question. The Man chooses to keep on living, in spite of his pain and sadness, because of his love for his child. The Man thinks of taking care of his child as a "religion"--to take care of the Boy is to protect the "word of God."

Everyone needs something to believe in. Furthermore, belief and worship become particularly important in times of crisis, like those portrayed in the novel. The Man's sole reason for living is his Boy--his wants to make a better life for his child. Notice also that McCarthy, in his typically spare way, alludes to Christ here--the Man says that his Boy is the word of God, the traditional description for Jesus. (At the end of the novel, McCarthy will double down on the Christian symbolism, we'll see.)

Are you okay? he said. The boy nodded. Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Gradually, McCarthy begins to show us how the Man and the Boy get along from day to day. The Man and Boy don't talk much to each other--here for instance, their dialogue is extremely minimal. And yet McCarthy suggests that their dialogue--or lack of dialogue--is evidence of their love and trust for each other; in other words, they don't need to talk, because they're secure in their affection.

The passage is full of nightmarish descriptions of futuristic America--even the light is grim and suggesting of violence (gunmetal). Notice also the self-consciously old-fashioned phrasing that McCarthy uses--"each other's world entire"--has the ring of the King James Bible to it. McCarthy's literary style reflects the themes of his book: in post-apocalyptic America, civilization has reverted to its somber, stripped-down, worshipful past.

Pages 29-60 Quotes

They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you wont face it. You’d rather wait for it to happen. But I cant. I cant… We used to talk about death, she said. We dont anymore. Why is that?
I dont know.
It’s because it’s here. There’s nothing left to talk about.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Woman (speaker), The Boy
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this flashback scene, the Man confronts his wife, who is about to kill herself. Darkness has fallen on the United States--all sense of order and humanity has broken down, so that criminals, murderers, and cannibals control everything. Rather than wait to face the inevitable--being raped, murdered, and eaten--the Man's wife decides to kill herself quickly and painlessly.

The Woman's decision is both brave and cowardly. She's smart enough to realize that she'll inevitably be attacked, and won't be able to defend herself. Rather than risk letting her own child witness such a monstrous event, or experiencing it herself, she decides to kill herself quietly, to take her fate into her own hands and use the last bit of "freedom" she still has. And yet the Woman's decision is also the cowardly way out--she'd prefer to surrender to nothingness than take care of the Boy or try to keep "carrying the fire" of survival and hope, as the Man goes on to do. One gets the sense that the Man's knowledge of his wife's suicide is what motivates him to be strong, never giving into the nihilism that ended his wife's life.

Pages 60-91 Quotes

This is my child, he said. I wash a dead man’s brains out of his hair. That is my job. Then he wrapped him in the blankets and carried him to the fire.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

The Man has just defended his child from a mysterious man, a member of a violent gang. After a tense showdown, the Man shoots his enemy right in the forehead, spattering brains all over his child's face. The Man is horrified by what he's just done--in the process of trying to defend his child from pain and danger, he's traumatized his child forever. And yet the Man remains convinced that he's doing the "right thing"--keeping his Boy safe.

The line between right and wrong grows thinner and thinner as the book goes on, and here the Man seems almost bemused by how "normal" horrifying things have become in his life. The Man continues to be intensely loyal to his child, and yet he's also willing to murder and steal in the name of feeding and sheltering his child--and to accept that this is just his "job" as a father in such harsh times.

You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?
Yes.
He sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up. Are we still the good guys? he said.
Yes. We’re still the good guys.
And we always will be.
Yes. We always will be.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Boy brings up an important point: what is it, exactly, that separates the Man and Boy from the other people on the road--people whom the man claims are "bad?" The Man insists that he is still a "good guy," but as the Boy has seen first-hand, the Man is willing to do some pretty wicked things (like shooting someone in the head).

Because the Boy has been taught to think in terms of binaries (good vs. bad, for example), he continues to believe that he and his father are "good" and the rest of the world is "bad." In fact, we can already tell, the line between good and bad is disappearing, and may have disappeared already. The Man and Boy don't eat human beings, like most of the people who've survived in America, but that doesn't necessarily make them moral, upright people. It's suggested that anyone with moral scruples probably died long ago. This is what makes the Boy's innocence so special, and why the Man seems willing to sacrifice his own morality for his son's sake--doing "bad things" in order to keep the Boy "good."

Pages 91-124 Quotes

Do you think I lie to you?
No.
But you think I might lie to you about dying.
Yes.
Okay. I might. But we’re not dying.
Okay.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Man and Boy go on to the ocean, they face the facts: they don't have much food, and could easily starve to death. The Boy asks his father if they're going to die of starvation. The Man replies that they won't, but the Boy seems skeptical. The Man insists that he's telling the truth, and will always tell his son the truth.

The spare, minimalistic dialogue in this passage is characteristic of McCarthy's literary style. But beneath the spareness of the words, there's a lot of emotion and thought. The Boy seems not to trust his father entirely (hence his single word, "Okay"), but perhaps he's decided to trust his father for now, because he can see no other option. Even when they're on the point of starvation, the Boy and Man remain loyal to each other; their loyalty stands in stark contrast to the cruelty and disorderliness of the rest of the country.

They lay listening. Can you do it? When the time comes? When the time comes there will be no time. Now is the time. Curse God and die. What if it doesnt fire? It has to fire. What if it doesnt fire? Could you crush that beloved skull with a rock? Is there such a being within you of which you know nothing? Can there be? Hold him in your arms. Just so. The soul is quick. Pull him toward you. Kiss him. Quickly.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Man faces the ultimate test of his love for his son. There is a group of dangerous men nearby--probably rapists, murderers, and cannibals. Knowing full-well that if the Boy is captured, he could endure a fate worse than death, the Man prepares to kill his own child, thereby saving him from more pain later on.

The passage poses a stunning ethical dilemma--is it "right" for the Man to kill his child, rather than let him be captured by murderers? The Man believes it is right, but he also wonders whether he's even capable of doing it--whether such a brutal, if ethical, being lives within himself. McCarthy reinforces the fine line between good and evil, gentleness and aggression, in the passage: he describes the way the Man thinks about killing and kissing his son in the same paragraph. Brutal as it might seem, killing the Boy is an act of love.

Pages 124-156 Quotes

Rich dreams now which he was loathe to wake from. Things no longer known in the world. The cold drove him forth to mend the fire. Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts. He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.

Related Characters: The Man, The Boy
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the Man continues to dream about the past. Every time he dreams, the memory changes a little bit. For example, here he remembers his beautiful wife when she was still alive--the Man fears that he is idealizing or changing things in his memory, like a game of "telephone" at a party. He seems to believe in a kind of Platonic "form" of memory--that there is a reality of truth (and true recollection) that exists somewhere, whether "known or not." Thus he wants to retain the truest, most precious memories possible, and that paradoxically means trying not to think of them often (because thinking of them means altering them).

The passage also provides more evidence for the way that memory can be a distraction from one's duty--for instance, the Man's duty to take care of his child at all times. And it is also perfectly clear that memory is a vital of part of being a human being--it's only because the Man remembers a time when he was happy that he has the courage and optimism to strive on behalf of his Boy; he wants to give his Boy the kind of life he himself used to enjoy.

Pages 156-189 Quotes

I never thought to see a child again. I didnt know that would happen.
What if I said that he’s a god?
The old man shook his head. I’m past all that now. Have been for years. Where men cant live gods fare no better. You’ll see. It’s better to be alone. So I hope that’s not true what you said because to be on the road with the last god would be a terrible thing so I hope it’s not true. Things will be better when everybody’s gone… When we’re all gone at last then there’ll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too. He’ll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He’ll say: Where did everybody go? And that’s how it will be. What’s wrong with that?

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), Ely (speaker), The Boy
Related Symbols: The Road
Page Number: 170-171
Explanation and Analysis:

Ely's beliefs are difficult to understand--Ely himself seems not to understand them completely. In this scene, the Man tries to tell Ely that he believes his own Boy to be a god or an angel. The Man might not be speaking literally, and yet there's a serious point here: the Man thinks of the Boy as his reason for living; the cornerstone of his own, private religion. Without the Boy, the Man would give up on life altogether.

Ely, by contrast, doesn't believe in any such "religion." As he sees it, the world is in a state of decline, for better or worse. One day soon, all human beings will be gone--and then, the world will be a lifeless, strangely beautiful place. Ely could be called a cynic: he seems to embrace the power of death and destruction, rather than believing, like the Man, that it's possible to find a better life and rebuild the world. And yet Ely also seems to want to defy death, too: here, he talks about getting the "last laugh" against death, tricking death by disappearing first. Ely both accepts and sneers at death and destruction.

Pages 189-246 Quotes

When your dreams are of some world that never was or of some world that never will be and you are happy again then you will have given up. Do you understand? And you cant give up. I wont let you.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Man teaches his son a valuable lesson: don't dream. To dream about better times and places, the Man argues, is to give up on the present-day. Thus, if the Boy spends too much of his time dreaming of fantasy-lands, then he won't take care of himself in the real world, and he'll die.

The Man's lesson might seem callous--what kind of father doesn't let his son enjoy his own dreams?--but there's a serious point here. When life itself is painful and frightening, there's a great temptation to give into one's natural instinct to escape. But of course, in this environment such an instinct is suicidal--by resorting to fantasy, the Boy would be wife did).

The boy shook his head. Oh Papa, he said. He turned and looked again. What the boy had seen was a charred human infant headless and gutted and blackening on the spit. He bent and picked the boy up and started for the road with him, holding him close. I’m sorry, he whispered. I’m sorry.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

In this gruesome scene, the Boy and the Man discover a group of travelers who have just fled their cooking fire. Left behind is what they were cooking--a human baby. The sight of the baby, as we would expect, has an immediate impact on the Boy--he's horrified that human beings could be so barbaric. (Although his horror is expressed in McCarthy's typical sparseness--only the words "Oh Papa.") Afterward, the Man carries the Boy away, apologizing to him again and again.

Why is the Man apologizing for other people's acts of evil? As we've already seen, the Man sees himself as being totally responsible for his child--taking care of the Boy is his only reason for living. Furthermore, keeping the Boy innocent and good is a kind of religion for him--he holds the Boy to be a sort of god, the last remnant of and hope for a better world. The contrast between the Man's love for his child and the travelers' consumption of their own kin reinforces how rare and powerful the Man's love really is. 

They trekked out along the crescent sweep of beach, keeping to the firmer sand below the tidewrack. They stood, their clothes flapping softly. Glass floats covered with gray crust. The bones of seabirds. At the tide line a woven mat of weeds and the ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore as far as eye could see like an isocline of death. One vast salt sepulchre. Senseless. Senseless.

Related Characters: The Man, The Boy
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

In this moving passage, the narrator describes the spectacle of the beach, post-apocalypse. Unlike the tranquil, beautiful beaches that many people enjoy today, this beach is ugly and full of signs of death, particularly the endless trail of dead fish washed up to shore. While the narrator is usually dispassionate and neutral as he describes the horrors of the futuristic world, even the narrator seemingly breaks down here. The Man and the Boy have spent most of the novel aspiring to reach the ocean--now they're here, and it's just as miserable as the rest of the world. With nothing left to hope for, and surrounded by such mass death, the narrator can only repeat the word "senseless." In a way, the entire plot of the book has been "Senseless"--the Man has embarked on a quest with no discernible payoff and no greater meaning.

Pages 246-287 Quotes

He was just hungry, Papa. He’s going to die.
He’s going to die anyway.
He’s so scared, Papa.
The man squatted and looked at him. I’m scared, he said. Do you understand? I’m scared.
The boy didn’t answer. He just sat there with his head bowed, sobbing.
You’re not the one who has to worry about everything.
The boy said something but he couldnt understand him. What? he said.
He looked up, his wet and grimy face. Yes I am, he said. I am the one.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy (speaker), The Thief
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel the Man truly compromises his moral principles for the "greater good" of survival. He and the Boy have their possessions stolen by a Thief. They track him down, and he threatens them with a knife. The Man points his gun at the Thief and forces him to surrender his possessions, including his clothes and shoes. The Boy begins to cry as they walk away from the Thief, pointing out that the Man has surely killed the Thief, since the Thief won't be able to survive for long without food, clothing, shoes.

The conversation between the Boy and his father is interesting because it shows the Boy has become the true moral center of the novel. Even while the Man looks out for his child, he's sacrificed some of his moral principles for the sake of survival. The Boy, then, has the job of guarding the rules of right and wrong ("worrying about everything")--he is the very embodiment of morality. Notice that McCarthy continues to portray the Boy as a godlike figure ("the one").

You have to carry the fire.
I dont know how to.
Yes you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I dont know where it is.
Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.
Just take me with you. Please.
I cant.
Please, Papa.
I cant. I cant hold my son dead in my arms. I thought I could but I cant.

Related Characters: The Man (speaker), The Boy (speaker)
Related Symbols: “Carrying the Fire”
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic scene, the Man finally succumbs to his injuries and dies. For a long time, the Man has contemplated what would happen in this situation--he's always believed that the "right" thing to do would be to murder his child, ensuring that the Boy won't die a more gruesome death on his own later on. But here, it becomes clear that the Man doesn't have the strength to kill his Boy--furthermore, he no longer thinks that killing the Boy is the right thing to do.

The Man tells the Boy that he must "carry the fire." While the Man (or narrator) doesn't explain what this "fire" is, it's possible to interpret this important symbol. The fire could symbolize the sheer power of morality, cooperation, and civilization. It could also be something as simple as hope and progress, the basic human instinct to keep going down the road and hoping for something better. In the final chapters of the novel, the Boy has become a leader--the embodiment of goodness and hope, on whose shoulders the future of human civilization depends.

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The Boy Character Timeline in The Road

The timeline below shows where the character The Boy appears in The Road. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Pages 1-29
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
A man and a boy sleep in the woods, the man comforted by the boy’s presence. Every night is pitch... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...cotton mask over his face to protect from the ash everywhere. He thinks about the boy as “his warrant” and “the word of God.” (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
The man returns to find the boy still asleep. The man takes out his pistol and their breakfast of cornmeal cakes. He... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
They try to fall asleep and the boy asks the man questions for reassurance. The man says that they won’t die and that... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...abandoned city. They see a shriveled corpse in a doorway and the man tells the boy that “the things you put into your head are there forever.” (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
The man and the boy keep going south for more weeks, passing through a hilly country. Everything is cold, dark,... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...killed each other off. The man fixes a loose wheel on their cart and the boy watches silently. They come to a barn and find three bodies hanging from the rafters.... (full context)
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Familial Love Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...from green leaves. Sometimes he also dreams of walking through a “flowering wood” with the boy, surrounded by birds and blue sky. The man doesn’t trust these good dreams, though, as... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
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...of it. Then he pushes the cart down the hills like a sled, and the boy smiles for the first time in a long time. They pass a gray lake and... (full context)
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...more color-drenched dreams, and thinks of them as death calling him. The man and the boy eventually reach a wide valley and an abandoned farm. They see an old billboard saying... (full context)
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...a fallen soda machine and finds one last Coca Cola. He gives it to the boy to drink as a treat. He makes the boy sit down and enjoy all of... (full context)
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...and decayed like all the other houses. The man wants to go in, but the boy is suddenly scared of it. (full context)
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
The man goes into the house and the boy comes with him, holding his hand. The man reminisces over the ruins of his childhood.... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...ground starts to shake. Something seems to pass beneath them like an “underground train.” The boy is terrified but the man comforts him, saying that it was an earthquake. The man... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
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...day they stay in an abandoned house and the man reads old newspapers while the boy sleeps. The man wonders if he will be able to kill the boy “when the... (full context)
Pages 29-60
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
More long weeks pass as the man and boy keep traveling. They come to a mountain range and the man wonders if they will... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...are still fires burning in the distance, somewhere in the mountains. The man and the boy make campfires every night to keep warm. Sometimes the man stops to cough up a... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...their last packet of cocoa. The man tries to give all of it to the boy but the boy makes them split it. They start traveling downhill and they hear trees... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
One night the boy has a nightmare about a wind-up penguin toy. Four days later they come out of... (full context)
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
They get dressed and walk up to the top of the waterfall, and the boy is frightened by the long drop. They walk through the forest and the man remembers... (full context)
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Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...is a “good place,” and he remembers seeing trout in a similar waterfall pool. The boy wants to stay by the river but the man says it isn’t safe, and they... (full context)
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Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...the road. He seems burnt and wounded, and he just looks down silently as the boy and the man pass by. The boy wants to stop and help him, but the... (full context)
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Familial Love Theme Icon
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
As they go on the boy starts crying and keeps looking back. The man assures him that they have nothing they... (full context)
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The man and the boy play cards sometimes and the boy asks questions about “the world that for him was... (full context)
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Familial Love Theme Icon
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...wife’s name aloud and feels like he may have said it in his sleep. The boy wakes up and says he wishes he was with his mom – that he was... (full context)
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Familial Love Theme Icon
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...alone, and his wife agreed, saying he would only survive if he lived for the boy. But this was no longer enough for the woman, so she hoped now for “eternal... (full context)
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The man then thinks about how the boy is totally a product of the post-apocalyptic world, and the fact that he was so... (full context)
Pages 60-91
Death and Violence Theme Icon
...them is a diesel truck. The man hides the cart and then he and the boy run off into the trees with their knapsacks. (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
The man and boy hide in a ditch and watch the group pass. The man can see several people... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...take care of his hurt companion. The man sees the bearded man looking at the boy and threatens to shoot if he looks at him again. The bearded man says the... (full context)
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...calls the man “chickenshit” and pulls out a knife. The bearded man runs towards the boy, dives, and comes up with his knife at the boy’s throat. The man aims his... (full context)
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...cough and give them away, but he stays quiet and the strangers pass by. The boy is shivering so the man takes him stumbling through the woods to keep warm and... (full context)
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The next morning the boy won’t speak at first. The man finds where the truck group camped, and he sees... (full context)
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They travel all day and then the man leaves the boy to go find firewood, but the boy keeps repeating that he’s “really scared.” The man... (full context)
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The man wakes up and strokes the sleeping boy’s golden hair, thinking of it as a “golden chalice, good to house a god.” He... (full context)
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They travel all day and that night the man apologizes to the boy for not being more careful. He tells the boy that he was appointed by God... (full context)
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The next morning the man gives the boy a rough wooden flute he carved. Soon the boy falls behind playing it, “a formless... (full context)
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...a town and the man scans the horizon with binoculars. He sees nothing, but the boy can see a distant wisp of smoke. The man suggests they go investigate, as they... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
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...in town. The man wakes up at night and vaguely wonders where they are. The boy asks him question for reassurance, and the man says that they will be okay because... (full context)
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While the boy is sitting on the steps of a house he sees another boy, about the same... (full context)
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They wander through the town, the boy worrying that the strange boy doesn’t have anyone to take care of him. The man... (full context)
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Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...that night and the man thinks of the last dog they saw, the one the boy is probably remembering. It was a starving dog who followed them for two days, but... (full context)
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...and flayed, next to a pile of viscera. The man puts his arm around the boy and leads him away. (full context)
Pages 91-124
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...red scarves of some kind and marching in rows of four. The man wakes the boy and they hide and watch. The strangers are all bearded and carry lengths of pipe... (full context)
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It starts to snow that afternoon and the man and boy trudge on. Soon they are freezing and exhausted, and the boy asks if the man... (full context)
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...the man feels like he can’t concentrate, and he has a hard time getting the boy to follow him back to the cart. When they find the cart the man makes... (full context)
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They set out on the road but it’s very slow going through the snow. The boy asks if they’re going to die, and wonders how long they can live without food.... (full context)
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They keep going, eating snow and growing weaker. That night the man watches the sleeping boy and notices the “strange beauty” of his thin face. The next morning they see wagon... (full context)
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...traveling, and after five days without food they come to a big plantation house. The boy is scared and doesn’t want to go in, but the man says they have to,... (full context)
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...for a shovel to pry it open with. He breaks open the lock, ignoring the boy’s frightened protests, and goes down the wooden steps, holding a lighter. There is a terrible... (full context)
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The boy points out the window and the man sees six strangers coming across the yard towards... (full context)
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The man pushes the pistol into the boy’s hand, telling him to put it in his mouth and fire if the strangers find... (full context)
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They stay in their hiding place until night falls and the boy falls asleep. Later they hear screams coming from the big house and the man covers... (full context)
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The boy falls asleep and the man considers whether he should leave him alone to go look... (full context)
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...apples. He eats a few, seeds and all, and gathers up the rest for the boy. He goes back into the house for a basket and then finds a cistern of... (full context)
Pages 124-156
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...morning they wrap themselves up like “mendicant friars” and set out again. That evening the boy wants to have a fire, but the man confesses that he dropped the lighter. Later... (full context)
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...warn people away. They stop to eat the last apples, and after some coaxing the boy asks if they would ever eat people. The man assures him that they wouldn’t, even... (full context)
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...or goodness,” things he hasn’t thought about in a long time. He dreams that the boy is dead and he wakes up in terror, but the boy is fine. They search... (full context)
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...man sees their reflection in a mirror. He raises the pistol at first but the boy stops him, saying “it’s us.” The man finds some morning glory seeds in a shed... (full context)
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...yard. He digs up the dirt and finds a locked hatch in the ground. The boy is terrified and begs the man not to open it. The man says it’s okay,... (full context)
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...to open the hatch door. He lights the lamp first and gives it to the boy. He reassures the boy that this door isn’t like the other one, and that because... (full context)
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The man descends into a concrete bunker, and he whispers for the boy to follow him down. The bunker is filled with canned food, supplies, and cots. The... (full context)
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They have pears and peaches for dinner, and the man notices that the boy is still wary, probably fearing that he will wake up in the darkness at any... (full context)
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The man and the boy sleep for a whole day and a half. When he wakes up the man has... (full context)
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...house, carrying water and a little stove. The man fills a hot bath for the boy, and the boy says he is “warm at last.” Afterward they wash their jeans in... (full context)
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The man and boy explore the nearby town and find a new grocery cart to carry supplies. The boy... (full context)
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They return to the bunker and the man cuts the boy’s hair. Then he cuts his own hair and shaves off his beard. They eat a... (full context)
Pages 156-189
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They stop to eat lunch and the boy asks where they are. The man says he thinks they are about two hundred miles... (full context)
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...a river and reach a black, abandoned city. They stop on a hill and the boy asks about their “long term goals,” a phrase he heard the man use long ago.... (full context)
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The man opens a can of fruit and the boy gives it to the old man. The old man eats all of it, and then... (full context)
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...he has lived “like an animal,” and he hasn’t seen a fire or a little boy in a long time. The man suggests that the boy is an angel or a... (full context)
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In the morning the man relents to the boy and gives Ely a few more cans of food. Ely doesn’t thank the boy, but... (full context)
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The boy is sad that they left Ely but he accepts that the old man will probably... (full context)
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...a coastal plain and some marshy land. One morning the man wakes up and the boy isn’t there, but the boy soon appears and says there’s a train in the woods.... (full context)
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...coast, as all the houses in this region were looted years ago. He shows the boy the map and the boy asks if the sea will be blue when they reach... (full context)
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They sleep in a shed, listening to the rain, and the boy asks the man if there are other “good guys.” The man says that there are,... (full context)
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...the pistol, trying to look tough, and the men slink away. The man and the boy keep going and eventually they make camp. The man is feverish when he wakes up... (full context)
Pages 189-246
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One night the boy wakes up from a bad dream and he won’t tell the man about it. The... (full context)
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...where dead bodies are trapped in the melted blacktop, their faces twisted in pain. The boy accepts that “what you put in your head is there forever” with a strange calm.... (full context)
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...has a bad coughing fit. Then they sit in the road and eat and the boy says he thinks someone is following them. The man agrees, and suggests that they hide... (full context)
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The man studies the map and the boy suggests that they haven’t gone as far as the man thinks they have. The next... (full context)
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The man worries that the boy won’t talk anymore. They make camp and the man checks the map again. They’re still... (full context)
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...few days without food and start getting weaker, sometimes sleeping right in the road. The boy sees a distant, well-camouflaged house and they set off for it. On the way the... (full context)
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...into the house and start a fire in the fireplace. The man takes off the boy’s shoes and whispers words of comfort to him. The man cooks the food and the... (full context)
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The next day the boy insists that they not go upstairs, but the man wants to search for food or... (full context)
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...day. They leave the house and go through a small town grocery store, where the boy stares at a mounted deer head for a long time. They spend long days traveling... (full context)
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...ocean in the distance. It is gray and lifeless, filled with ash and slag. The boy looks disappointed and the man apologizes that it isn’t blue. They make their way down... (full context)
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The boy asks if he can go swimming and the man allows it. The boy runs out... (full context)
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The man decides to explore the boat. He gives the boy the pistol and tells him to wait on the beach, and the man strips and... (full context)
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...a waterproof bag that he fills with odds and ends. He regularly checks on the boy, who sits huddled on the beach and eventually falls asleep. In a locker the man... (full context)
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The man swims ashore and greets the boy with his finds. He tells the boy that they have to find shelter, as it... (full context)
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...corpse washed up by the waves. They spend the morning offloading the ship, with the boy staying on the beach and dragging the seabag in by the rope. (full context)
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...Later he decides to make one last trip out to the boat, even though the boy says he’s scared. The man explores the boat again, and after some careful searching he... (full context)
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The man swims back to shore and tells the boy about his finds. The boy asks if the flarepistol is to shoot someone, and the... (full context)
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The boy asks about how many people there are in the world, and the man says he... (full context)
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...and fires it over the ocean. It explodes like a firecracker in the darkness. The boy says it would be hard for anybody to see it from far away, and the... (full context)
Pages 246-287
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In the morning the boy feels sick and has a fever. The man tries to comfort him but the man... (full context)
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The man feels like it is the “last day of the earth.” The boy keeps sleeping feverishly. One night the man goes out to the beach and falls down... (full context)
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...blankets, tarp, and shoes – have been stolen. The man curses to himself and the boy starts to cry. The man follows the bootprints up to the road and then he... (full context)
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The boy finds some sand and the man hurries ahead, but soon he starts coughing and has... (full context)
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The boy starts crying and begs the man not to kill the thief, but the man tells... (full context)
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After they go a ways the man tells the boy to stop crying, but the boy can’t. The boy begs the man to help the... (full context)
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...at the road and feels an earthquake in the distance. He wonders how old the boy is now. They travel on along the coast for a few days and the man... (full context)
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...town the man hears something whistle over his head and he throws himself on the boy. He sees a stranger in a window with a bow, and the stranger shoots the... (full context)
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After a while the man leaves the boy hiding and limps into the stranger’s house. He finds a woman holding the stranger in... (full context)
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The boy gets the kit and the man disinfects and sews together his wound. The boy watches... (full context)
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The man asks the boy for a story, or to tell him about his dreams. The boy says his dreams... (full context)
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...man sits in the road and cuts the stitches out of his leg, and the boy says he is brave. The man says the bravest thing he’s ever done is “getting... (full context)
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...coughs up more blood and has to stop and rest more often than before. The boy watches him, and the man realizes that the boy is old enough that in another... (full context)
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The boy tries to split a can of peaches with the man but the man makes the... (full context)
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The man tells the boy that the boy needs to keep going down the road, to keep surviving and moving... (full context)
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The boy asks the man to take him with him, but the man refuses. He had thought... (full context)
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The narrative shifts to follow the boy. The boy stays with his father for three days and then sets off on the... (full context)
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The scarred man asks about what the boy has, and the boy says he only has some blankets, but they’re still wrapped around... (full context)
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The scarred man tells the boy to go out in the road and wait for him to fetch the blankets. The... (full context)
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The boy goes out to the road and a woman embraces him. Later she talks to him... (full context)