‘The Road’ is a chilling journey into the future
The Earth is dead. A few survive, but the rest of our known world has been reduced to rubble and ash. Fires have consumed most of everything: houses, cars, forests, playgrounds, farms, food stores, cities. What little stands among the ash is left to the cold.
With such intense firestorms and scorched land, the skies remain terminally gray; they no longer house the sun, offering only frequent showers of cold snow and rain to mix in with the ash of our memories. Cormack McCarthy’s most recent novel, “The Road,” is that of an apocalyptic era that has fallen over Earth for reasons that do not matter. What does matter is staying warm, finding food and keeping wills, hopes and dreams alive. The story is told through the travels of a man and his son; two survivors searching for food, sanctuary and a piece of what used to be. Since everything is ash, only barren hills and dead silhouettes exist as landmarks. The two travelers have nothing more to guide them than their burnt surroundings and the road, which is the only remaining discernible path to follow. “The Road” speaks of a dead world where man has been reduced to the most basic elements of survival. Only it’s not that simple. Those who remain must cover their faces to filter out the ash and soot in the air. The struggle to keep warm is constantly made harder by the cyclical storms that blanket the earth. Fires are not easily kept in this cold and wet world, nor are the tools to make them. Food exists in the form of canned and preserved goods, and cannibalism is the only alternative. The black gravel road that did not burn away is traveled by all, good and bad. The struggle between good and evil elevates as natural selection reaches full swing. The man and his son must continually be careful with their decisions: who they approach, how they keep their fire and where they decide to go in search of food. Poor choices will no doubt reveal those who lie in wait – those who no longer retain moral value, cannibals who will steal and enslave.
McCarthy tackles a subject that we all hope not to experience firsthand. It is not a subject new to us, but the way in which he presents it is. Through his words, McCarthy makes you feel the cold. He makes you reach for your cheek in a futile attempt to wipe the off the wet ash that has rained from above. He instills a sense of fear that will make you hold your breath as some unknown approaches through the slush. He even makes you feel hungry, unsure when your next meal will come. As one travels along the “The Road,” this unfriendly world becomes very real. McCarthy is a master of words, describing images, sensations and feelings that are unique only to those who are able to bear witness. Reading “The Road,” we are able to live in a future that may not be so far away.
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Planning efforts to bring the controversial gray wolf back to parts of Colorado’s Western Slope are officially getting underway.