The Road By Cormac McCarthy Summary and Analysis Section 13 - Man has a fever" to "Charred infant""

Summary

The man becomes very sick with a fever, and the boy is scared for him. The man's dreams become more peaceful and in them he's visited by dead kin. They don't move for more than four days and the man recalls a scene from his boyhood when he watched men burn a pile of snakes in a field.

The boy has a bad dream and refuses to tell the man what it's about. The man assures the boy that his bad dreams mean he hasn't given up. When they set out on the road again, the man is very weak. They come upon a stretch of road where everything has been burned and people abandoned their belongings. Farther up, they find dead bodies, mummified in agony, melted into the black asphalt. The man says he doesn't want the boy looking, but the boy tells him that the images are already in his head and that they're not leaving.

The man feels as if someone is following them. They watch the road from a hiding spot atop the bluffs and see three men and a pregnant woman on the road. The man and boy remain where they are for the night and let the people pass.

The next morning, they see smoke coming from the place where the people camped. They go to investigate and find a skewered baby cooking over an open fire.

Analysis

In this section, the father's deteriorating health adds to the novel's tension. All along the man has been worried about his son, wondering what will happen if he has to leave the boy behind. The man believes that it is his purpose to protect the boy. There is a moment in this section when the father briefly muses on fatherhood, wondering if his ancestors are watching and if they are judging him and how he is caring for his son. This reflection is part of the novel's theme of fatherhood and the special bond that exists between father and son.

Dreams continue to play a large role in this section. While the man warns the boy that pleasant dreams are bad, telling his son that bad dreams mean he still wants to live, the man's dreams have taken a turn and become peaceful. The man's dreams focus on his own death; visions of dead relatives while he's ill represent his calling to death.

The image of serpents recurs in this section, as well. The man has had multiple dreams about beasts and creatures that are related to evil, and here he remembers seeing snakes burned when he was a boy. Shortly after the man recalls the burning snakes, the man and boy come upon human carcasses that were burned in the road, and the infant cooking on a spit. Each of these burned/burning images conveys desperation and hopelessness, which resonates with the man and boy's current state. The man continues to grow weaker and closer to death, the boy is beginning to realize that he is losing his father, the days remain bitterly cold, and their food stores are almost completely used up.

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