Hope in the Ashes of Despair

Hope in the Ashes of Despair
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, explores the hope and despair found in the extreme times of survival. The tone of the novel shifts from melancholy at the beginning, to optimistic at the end. Hope is found in the boy and man’s relationship, the boy’s innate goodness, and when meeting others similar to themselves. Despair on the other hand, is expressed through the mother’s suicide, father’s death, and survival methods that people in the new world adopt. Throughout the novel, McCarthy emphasizes that the two themes coexist; without one, there cannot be the other.
In the first half of the novel, readers examine the severity of the damage that extends to every aspect of the protagonists’ lives. Not only is the world the father once familiar with destroyed, the English language readers are accustomed to has also been transformed. The damage of the post-apocalyptic world even applies to McCarthy’s prose. McCarthy strips his writing of grammar and punctuation and replaces it with what is left. The simple conversations between the father and the son suggest the inability of being able to express thoughts and emotions using words when facing disturbing moments of life and death. In the second half of the novel, the rare sighting of colours such as the yellow ski parka of a survivor, is distinct from the vast sea of grayness that defines a large majority of the first half of the novel. The vivid description of “brook trout in the streams in the mountains” (McCarthy, 2006, p.286) at the end, offers hope rather than the despair found in the beginning. When addressing the book as two halves, the first half is deliberately bleak, but only to strongly contrast the second half.

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Living in a decapitated world, hope and goodness is rare. But throughout the book, the father’s messianic language about the boy suggests that…