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Old Feb 25th, 2021, 10:35 AM
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The Road Final Discussion

Welcome to the RPGX Book Club February 2021 read discussion!

We're discussing all of The Road in this thread. It'll remain open for the duration of the read. See the Schedule post for the complete discussion schedule.

Here's a refresher of the book's discussion questions:

Discussion Questions* Cormac McCarthy has an unmistakable prose style. What do you see as the most distinctive features of that style? How is the writing in The Road in some ways more like poetry than narrative prose?

* How is Cormac able to make the post-apocalyptic world of The Road seem so real and utterly terrifying? Which descriptive passages are especially vivid and visceral in their depiction of this blasted landscape? What do you find to be the most horrifying features of this world and the survivors who inhabit it? (yup here we go...)

* Why do you think Cormac has chosen not to give his characters names? How do the generic labels of "the man" and "the boy" affect the way in which readers relate to them?

* How difficult or easy is it to imagine Cormac's nightmare vision of the future actually happening? Do you think people would likely behave as they do in the novel, under the same circumstances? Does it now seem that human civilization is headed toward such an end?

* What makes the relationship between the boy and his father so powerful and poignant? What do they feel for each other? How do they maintain their affection for and faith in each other in such brutal conditions?

Sorry for the delay, and Hail the Apocalypse! – Er, happy reading!

Last edited by Baxder; Feb 25th, 2021 at 10:35 AM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2021, 08:26 AM
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Hrm. Well. I finished it last night, from the end of the 2nd section.

For years people have been saying stuff like "devasting!", "terrifying!", "LIFE AFFIRMING AND EMOTIONALLY DESTROYING" when they talk about this book, and it was one of the things that put me off reading it. Now I've read the whole thing and my overriding emotion is basically flat-mouth-emoji. I didn't hate it. I mentioned early on that I was enjoying the rhythm of it, and I can see that much of the content is aiming to be symbolic of bigger stories about faith and survival and meaning and so on. But overall, I just didn't connect emotionally to it at all.

The last section has a series of events in it that I can see are supposed to be giving me emotions, but they just weren't happening. All their stuff gets stolen, but I've never had the sense of them being in any real danger throughout the book so far because of their plot armour, so... so what? The man catches up with the thief and performs a miniature personal atrocity, but he's already committed miniature personal atrocities throughout the book while the boy cries and tells him not to, so... so what? Baby in the forest... so what? By the time we got to something new, like the bow attack, my lack of empathy for the protagonists and the events had leaked out into that as well.

Maybe it's me, you know? Maybe I'm just broken somehow. Maybe it's that Cormac's style (and his ridiculous cannibals) just blunt the emotional effect for me.

Between the 2nd and 3rd sections, I was reading The Rebel by Albert Camus. The two books don't really have anything in them to make comparisons with, but it did remind me that I'd read The Stranger by Camus a few years ago, and I think The Stranger is quite a good companion piece to The Road. Similar absurdist/existentialist themes about what the point is of carrying on through an ultimately meaningless existence, both books by men that in some small way are about the experience of being a man, and both similarish in style. Camus is very terse and descriptive about the world in The Stranger, spends much of time describing things as sensory experiences. McCarthy's writing strongly reminds me of that. I enjoyed The Stranger well enough, but just like with The Road I didn't get any emotional affect out of it. So maybe it's just a style thing. Or, you know, maybe I am just an unfeeling monster.
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Old Mar 1st, 2021, 07:45 AM
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I loved it. The writing was stunning and I plan to read 'all the pretty horses' next

To be fair for the most part I also found myself less emotionally invested in the actual characters than I thought I would be. I'm not sure if it's because this was my first time listening to an audio book rather than reading a physical book- I would usually reread passages I found emotionally charged or beautiful (so you get that real good ache, y'know)- but it wasn't possible with that format.

That said the writing, often the descriptions, did make me cry a couple of times (I'm a very emotional person though). When he was telling the boy to put the gun in his mouth for example, that bit stuck with me, as well as a lot of environmental descriptions.

As for the end... I'm glad it ended how it did.
There's a spark of hope which The Man and never really believed in himself, yet he tried to get The Boy to maintain- 'carry the flame'.
I suppose I felt a little angry with him at times, knowing he was going to die on the road and not making more of an effort to find 'the good guys' to leave his son with.
In relation to the last question- I don't really get the impression that the boy DOES have much faith in the man beyond having literally no choice in doing what he says and obviously the bonds of father-son relationship. It's made apparent that he doesn't believe his father a lot of the time.

what did you make of the last passage? I read it as a suggestion that fish returned to the world, (rather than being a flashback) and ultimately- relatively- everything will be fine?

I share that view to be fair- I take great comfort in the realisation that at the end of the day whatever natural atrocities the human race performs (and they are many) the earth will keep going- new life will rise again. We're only ****ing it for ourselves.

The book carried a lot of weight for me personally actually. We moved country to try and live sustainably, grow our own food ect. I'm not saying that I'm a prepper by any means, but I suppose I have a certain awareness that if things do go to hell, then the city is not where we want to be. The book made me think about the climate situation, (and to lesser extent, economical situation) which if not resolved fairly quickly is going to lead to mass migration of people on a scale we've never seen before- people who can no longer live in their own countries, nor afford to live in cities. I worry sometimes about being able to maintain my compassion in times of trouble- Will I be able to share what I have with desperate strangers, or will the paranoia of being screwed over take hold?
I hope I will always share my canned peaches, but how can we know till we are in the situation?
I want to believe in humanity, but I see so much evidence of greed (or just ruthless self preservation in the world of the book.) destroying our world. The ball is rolling and everything is too intertwined... pull one string and everything moves. KFC makes vegan chicken...
I'd better shut before i end up on a rule defying political rant, but yeah- the book resonated with me on themes I've been thinking about for a long time, and that made me like it even more.
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Last edited by Wishkamon; Mar 1st, 2021 at 07:51 AM.
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