Summary and Analysis
Later that afternoon, the man asks if the boy is purposefully not talking to him. He knows that the boy is upset over the man's unwillingness to let Ely stay with them and tells the boy that he'll have more time to think about Ely when they're out of food. The man knows the boy thinks that he was wrong for making Ely leave them. The boy feels sure that Ely is going to die.
The man's cough continues to get worse. He wakes in the cold night and thinks about Ely out on his own. The man knows he is dying and wonders how he can do that with the boy still alive.
The boy forgets to turn off both valves on their stove, so it runs out of gas. The man tries to hide the mistake from the boy, but the boy figures it out. The man insists that the mistake is not the boy's fault but his, because it's his job to check the tank.
They continue to make their way to the coast. The towns and land they pass through are full of death — dead creatures, dead homes, and barren fields — and they have been completely looted. The boy discovers a train in the woods. They explore it and the boy sits in the engineer's seat, but they find nothing of substance. Their stores are all gone long before they reach the coast.
During their journey, they pause to look at the map and figure out their location. The boy wants to know if the sea is blue. The man says it used to be, but he doesn't know if it is anymore.
The man assures his son that there are other good guys on the road, but they're just hiding. They run into three men in the road, who want to know what's in their cart. The man aims his pistol at them, and he and the boy make their way past.
In this section, multiple scenes foreshadow the man's death. The man's cough is getting worse and he admits to himself that he is dying and isn't sure how he can do that with his son still alive. He is afraid of leaving his son alone and continues to do all he can to protect the boy, even trying to spare him the guilt of forgetting to turn off the gas valve on the stove. The boy has a dream in which his father won't wake up even though the boy is crying for him.
The landscape is as hopeless as ever, with multiple images of death, such as the bones of dead creatures in the gullies and fields.
The image of the man and the boy on the train again recalls father and son moments from the world that no longer exists. The man places his son in the engineer's seat and makes train noises for the boy, before realizing that those noises mean nothing to him since the boy has never seen (nor heard) a working train. Again the man struggles to reconcile the old world with the new, while trying to decipher what his son must think of the world in which he's being raised. The train, which once represented industry and technology, now sits in the woods — an empty vessel and stands as a stark reminder to the man of a lost world, something that cannot be recovered or recreated for the boy.
When the man and the boy study the map, they work to figure out their location. This serves as a metaphor for their ultimate search for their place in the world. The man and boy don't know who else is out there, and although the man promises that there are other good guys out there, soon after they run into three men who aren't good guys. Still, the boy has already expressed that he believes his father is correct. He continues to believe that there are others out there like him and his father, carrying the fire.