The Road By Cormac McCarthy Summary and Analysis Section 8 - Freezing rain, long night" to "Man begins to shovel""

Summary

The man and the boy walk the road into the night and through the freezing rain. Of all the bad nights they've had, this is one of the worst and longest nights the man can remember. When the rain stops, the man tries to dry their clothes. The boy asks for a fire and the man apologizes but tells him that he dropped the lighter. The boy asks if the bad are people are going to eat the people in the cellar. The man tells him yes. The boy asks if that's why they couldn't help the people in the cellar, if it's because the bad people would have eaten them too. The man says yes again, that they couldn't help otherwise they may have been eaten, too.

They pass through towns with billboards advertising products that no longer exist, the ads painted over with warnings. Out of apples and starving, they search desperately for food. The boy tells his father that they'd never eat anyone, no matter how hungry they become. He wants to make sure this is true, and the man confirms it. The boy wants to make sure they are still the good guys, that they are still carrying the fire.

Fearing that they're both close to death, the man wonders if they should find a place to hide where they won't be found. He watches the boy sleep and sobs uncontrollably. He has nightmares about the boy on a cooling board, and then he has other dreams about the old, lost world, about his wife in her nightgown.

They move through the remains of charred houses. The man raises the pistol to their reflections in a mirror in one of the houses. The boy tells him, "It's us," and they move on. At the back of the house, the man notices that the ground feels different beneath his feet. He gets a garden spade and begins to dig.

Analysis

The boy is very aware of the horrors happening around him. He knows what is going to happen to the people in the basement without asking his father, but he still asks. The boy wants to make sure that they couldn't have done anything to help the people. He struggles with guilt and morality and wants to make sure that no matter how desperate they become, he and his father continue to carry the fire and the goodness along the dark road.

As the man and boy make their journey, scavenging for supplies, their dialogue continues to mimic the landscape. It's very sparse and exists as more of a frame for a conversation rather than a fully realized discussion.

Just as it is difficult for the man to recognize the world he now inhabits, it is also difficult for him to recognize his own reflection. He worries constantly about their survival, particularly for his son, and the theme of dreams returns as both the present and past worlds come to haunt him at night. His nightmares are of violence to his son and his other dreams, the pleasant ones that call him to death, are of his wife. He cries for his son and for all of the beauty that he will never see or experience, which again begs the question about the future, about why they're trying to survive at all. For what? Yet, as the man digs at the end of this section, there is a continued search for something good and for something to sustain the man and his boy.

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