As there are only two main characters, a father and a son, The Road’s principal relationship is one of paternal love. The man and boy are “each the other’s world entire,” and it is only the man’s love for the boy that gives him the will to persevere. Their love is generally of the stark, silent kind, as the pair’s whole existence consists of surviving from one day to the next. Never in the book does either one say “I love you,” but when he has the chance the man shows his love in other ways, as by giving the boy a Coca-Cola. For his part, the boy constantly looks to his father for reassurance, safety, and some kind of order in his chaotic world.
Briefly contrasted with this paternal love is the maternal love of the boy’s mother. The woman elected to kill herself rather than be raped and eaten, and she suggested that the man kill the boy too, as death would be better than the hellish world they now occupy. The woman is also offering a kind of familial love, but she tries to “save” the boy by protecting him from pain instead of helping him survive at whatever cost. The man and the woman both love the boy, but in such a bleak world they can only show their love out of the depths of their own hope or despair.
Familial Love ThemeTracker
Familial Love Quotes in The Road
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.
He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.
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.
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.
The one thing I can tell you is that you wont survive for yourself. I know because I would never have come this far. A person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together a passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love. Offer it each phantom crumb and shield it from harm with your body. As for me my only hope is for eternal nothingness and I hope for it with all my heart.
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.
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?
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.
Do you think I lie to you?
But you think I might lie to you about dying.
Okay. I might. But we’re not dying.
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.
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.
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.
When he went back to the fire he knelt and smoothed her hair as she slept and he said if he were God he would have made the world just so and no different.
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.
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. I cant hold my son dead in my arms. I thought I could but I cant.