This book is not really anything to do with the cataclysm that has destroyed all civilization and apparently almost all life on earth, but of the journey of the father and son after the death of the mother near the beginning of the story. The journal of the twos strong bond through such a grim landscape heading South so that they can survive for longer, dodging all the other survivors who have turned into cannibal going from town to town trying to find bodies. It is not like the typical apocalyptic text where there is a meaning behind the cataclysm which killed so many and outlines the rest of the story. Except that the father lives for his son and his son is so young that he can not survive on his own, but with the dad dying you can feel the tension of heartache through out. This text is more about them being saints (the good people) believing that there can be a civilization if they found people like themselves, showing strong hope in more of a religious manner, where the boy symbolises hope like another jesus here to help others.
As James stated the can of coke is a large part of the dying of consumerism making the audience know fully that this may be the last can on earth to be tasted, in other apocalyptic txt consumerism is a major part of the story line for example dawn of the dead being in a mall and them still wanting nice things. Also the gun that the father carries around is not for protection but to be used if the boy was captured to pull on himself, it is a symbol of the old world an American right to have in the use of protection although now to use in different circumstances. In The Road non of this matters and survival is more vital than anything else, the protection of the young boy is the main role that the father plays.
Though the young boy is represented as the strength of the future, he is the one keeping his dad going also he does not know much about the old world so adapts easily to the new. Even though the boy has seen many horrifying accounts such as the newborn child being roasted on a spit roast for the cannibals, at the end the young boy is like a hero because when he dad dies another family finds him a 'good' family who has a daughter which means salvation and civilisation can be continued and hopefully saved.