Summary and Analysis Section 20



The man and boy struggle onward. They pass the ruins of seaside resorts and the hulls of stripped and empty boats. The man continues to cough up blood. They come to a coastal city, where the tall buildings have melted and bent slightly. The man's dreams turn to pleasant things. The man knows that his son listens for his breathing at night, worried that he'll soon be gone. The days get harder and harder, and the man grows weaker. As they slowly make their way along the road, the man notes the earth's deconstruction and wonders if the secrets of the earth's creation will be revealed in its deconstruction.

The road is so strewn with wreckage that the man and the boy abandon their cart. They trudge on for two days before setting up camp. The man knows that this is the place where he will die. They have a single can of peaches left and the man refuses to eat any. He tells the boy to save them for him until tomorrow. The boy brings him water and tries to cover him with a tarp, but the man says he doesn't want to be covered. He watches the boy, who is surrounded by light.


The theme of skeletons and empty vessels resumes in this section. The man and boy come upon the remains of cities, buildings, cars, houses, boats, and human bodies. Everything has been stripped of life and has been hollowed out, left to rot in the wind and cold and ash. The tone of this section is increasingly desolate, and the language and sentence structure is very barren. The use of sentence fragments and choppy dialogue reflect the bleak landscape, as it has throughout the entire novel.

The man's softer, happier dreams foreshadow his death. The man has said throughout the novel that good dreams are a bad sign because they mean you've given up on the present world. This shift in the man's dreams indicates that his life is coming to an end.

The man knows that he is dying, but the boy comforts him. Again, the man notes godlike or holy qualities in the boy. When the boy turns to look at his father behind him in the road, the man likens him to a glowing tabernacle. Similarly, when the boy brings his father water, the man notes that the light comes with the boy and retreats when the boy moves away. This light symbolizes the goodness in the boy, as well as the fire that he carries. The man can feel himself and the boy growing farther apart. The boy will have to live on in this new world and make for himself a place within it, while his father is getting ready to leave.

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