‘There’s literally nowhere to go, no sense in going, just the inexorable impulse to move.’ Ron Charles, Washington Post
There are several points within The Road which particularly stood out to me in regards to being an apocalyptic text of its time.
The fact that McCarthy does not mention the reason behind the apocalypse in intriguing as many apocalyptic texts are a way of reflecting current social fears, i.e. nuclear war, climate change etc. There is no names of people, places etc which gives the book a peculiar sense of simplicity. In this regards The Road it truly unique, being unlike many apocalyptic texts. It seems to be more focused about a father and son relationship than the end of the world. This is also reflected in the film, with there being very little CGI and special effects.
Throughout the book and film the reader sympathises with the man and boy’s situation, hanging on to their dignity by trying to live as ‘good’ people (i.e. not robbing or resorting to cannibalism) and “carrying the fire.” However as the book goes on we see how the man becomes more un-hero likes, becoming more like a savage. He kills and robs the stranger (who had previously taken their belongings) and leaves him for dead. Ron Charles states in a Washington Post article ‘…metaphysical challenge of sustaining his son's innate goodness while forcing him to witness the corruption of all moral behaviour.’
When the boy fins the coke can (possibly the last coke can in the world) the father wants him to drink it all and the boy responds by saying “it’s because I won’t ever get to drink another one isn’t it?” Coke is one of the most iconic American products which people take for granted. Yet in the book, the boy has never heard of such a thing. Is this the death of consumerism/capitalism? No material items matter any more (apart from the gun which is key to their survival). The global business empires which thrived in America (coca-cola) have been ruined.
Yet the book and film ends with a glimmer of hope, despite the father dying. We see a family take the boy (suggested that they will live together happily). The boy is kind and wants to help others. However this somewhat goes against the running theme of the book, which is depressing and suggestive that there is little hope left in the world (reinforced with the mother killing herself and wanting to take the boy with her). The realistic ending would result in the boy being captured by the cannibals. We see how mankind would act in situations of severe desperation. Some turn to committing un-speak able atrocities, many simply give up (the mother and Ely), whilst the youngest person in the book manages to keep strong and ‘do the right thing’.