The Road

The Road Symbol Icon
As it makes up the title of the novel and its main setting, the road is the most important symbol of The Road. The roads are one of the few things that couldn’t be destroyed by whatever disaster destroyed the earth, and the man and boy spend most of their time on a road leading to the coast. As a unifying place for travel, the road is a place of both transience and danger, and in the novel it comes to symbolize the human drive to keep moving and keep surviving, no matter the circumstances. The man is defined by his perseverance in living despite the hellish state of the world (as opposed to the woman’s despair and suicide), and his endless journey down the road symbolizes this dogged endurance. He has no clear goal in mind – except heading south and reaching the coast – but he keeps going anyway, and he teaches the boy this same lifestyle of the road. In the end it seems that the road itself is the destination, as the man tells the boy to keep “carrying the fire” and heading south, moving ahead with the human will to live and go forward.

The Road Quotes in The Road

The The Road quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Road. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Road published in 2008.
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:

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The Road Symbol Timeline in The Road

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Road 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
...is a blind, monstrous creature. The man wakes up and goes to look at the road. He thinks it might be October, but “he hadnt kept a calendar for years.” He... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
The morning gets vaguely lighter and the man looks down the road with binoculars. All the trees are dead and colorless, and the wind moves ash across... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...boy calls the man “Papa.” After breakfast the man and boy set out on the road. They both have knapsacks and they push a shopping cart full of all their possessions.... (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...the old number of his father’s house, but nothing happens. They set off down the road but then the man remembers something and makes them go back. He collects all the... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...see God so he can “throttle” and “damn” him. Then they set out on the road and pass through an abandoned city. They see a shriveled corpse in a doorway and... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
They keep moving and the man notices the lack of marauders on the road. He hopes the “bloodcults” have all killed each other off. The man fixes a loose... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
They continue down the road and the man thinks about his wife, remembering her smell. He finds two brooms and... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...way that the world would actually turn out. Finally they leave and return to the road. (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...was an earthquake. The man remembers the first years after the unnamed disaster, when the road was filled with refugees wearing masks and goggles. (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...the boy “when the time comes.” Later they eat rice and beans squatting in the road, and then sleep huddled together for warmth. The man recognizes that “the boy was all... (full context)
Pages 29-60
Familial Love Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...trees are going to fall on them. Often they come across trees fallen across the road and they have to unpack the cart and carry everything over the tree trunks. (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...map and points out their route to the boy. They will be following the state roads. The boy asks about them and the man says there aren’t states anymore, but the... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
They leave the river and set out on the road again. They come to a tractor-trailer wedged across a bridge. They have to unload the... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...they travel through a “haze of woodsmoke,” as a fire has recently passed through. The road is still melted and soft, and they see footprints in the tar. Soon they come... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...the man takes out his wallet and leaves all its contents spread out across the road. He lingers over a photograph of his wife, but then he leaves that on the... (full context)
Pages 60-91
Death and Violence Theme Icon
...noise. He grabs the pistol and then sees a group of people coming down the road. They are all hooded and masked and carrying lengths of pipe as clubs, and behind... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...won’t. He says they’re going to drink some water and then “keep going down the road.” (full context)
Pages 91-124
Death and Violence Theme Icon
...next morning the man wakes up to see a group of strangers coming down the road. They are all wearing red scarves of some kind and marching in rows of four.... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
They set out on the road but it’s very slow going through the snow. The boy asks if they’re going to... (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...camp at a high place and then the man sees two strangers going down the road. One turns and almost sees the man, but he blends into the background wrapped in... (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...for him to wake up. They eat the apples and then set off on the road again. (full context)
Pages 124-156
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...might find them. The man says they probably won’t meet any “good guys” on the road, so he has to stay scared and cautious most of the time. (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...morning they bathe again, eat breakfast, and leave the bunker to set off on the road again. (full context)
Pages 156-189
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...still doesn’t know. They turn a corner and see an old man shuffling along the road ahead of them. They catch up to him and he warily says he doesn’t have... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
They make camp and light a fire. Ely says he has always been on the road, and that he knew some kind of apocalypse was coming. The man asks if he... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...and start to see small cairns and old messages scrawled by the side of the road. These were left by people leaving the cities after the food ran out. Soon after... (full context)
Pages 189-246
Death and Violence Theme Icon
As they go down the road they come to a place where dead bodies are trapped in the melted blacktop, their... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...go further and the man 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,... (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...go a 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... (full context)
Pages 246-287
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
...himself and the boy starts to cry. The man follows the bootprints up to the road and then he sends the boy to look for any trace of sand on the... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...leave the thief just as the thief left them. The thief stands shivering in the road and the man and the boy leave him, the boy sobbing. (full context)
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
In the morning the man goes to look at the road and feels an earthquake in the distance. He wonders how old the boy is now.... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
...later they leave town, the man limping badly. They travel a while along the sandy road and then turn inland the next day. The man sits in the road and cuts... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
The man tells the boy that the boy needs to keep going down the road, to keep surviving and moving on, as he might find some more luck somewhere. He... (full context)
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
...The boy stays with his father for three days and then sets off on the road. Immediately he sees someone following him and he waits with the pistol. A man carrying... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Survival and Perseverance Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
The scarred man tells the boy to go out in the road and wait for him to fetch the blankets. The boy requests that they leave his... (full context)
Death and Violence Theme Icon
Familial Love Theme Icon
Faith, Trust, and Doubt Theme Icon
Dreams and Memory Theme Icon
The boy goes out to the road and a woman embraces him. Later she talks to him about God, and he tries... (full context)