The Road


Cormac McCarthy

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Road, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Death and Violence

In the post-apocalyptic setting of The Road, almost all animals, plants, and humans have died off because of some unnamed disaster. Because of this, death is a constantly looming figure – the land and sea are covered in darkness and ashes, nothing grows, and dead bodies litter the landscape. Death is so universally present that it is often personified as a character, like the woman describing her decision to commit suicide as taking death…

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Familial Love

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…

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Survival and Perseverance

Much of the action of The Road consists of the protagonists’ daily struggle to survive. This creates a mood of constant suspense as death looms always overhead, and most other humans have turned to cannibalism. One of the novel’s central questions then is why to persevere in such a hellish existence. The man’s reason to keep struggling comes to him as the idea of “carrying the fire”: an idea that seems to…

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Faith, Trust, and Doubt

In the harsh world of The Road, everything depends on trusting or distrusting each other. On one level, there is a constant tension regarding whether or not the man should trust anyone he meets on the road. Some people are cannibals and rapists, while others will still steal to survive. The boy is more trusting than the man, as he is always trying to help people and give away precious food. This trustingness…

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Dreams and Memory

The present world of The Road is dark and full of death, and the only real color appears in the man’s dreams and memories. When he or the boy have nightmares they are just an extension of the present, where the worst has already happened, but in his good dreams the man returns to his happy memories of the past, and the world of nature and his wife. The boy never experienced the pre-apocalyptic world…

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