Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The End of the Road” as Want to Read:
The End of the Road
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The End of the Road

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,662 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Its first-person protagonist, Jacob Horner, suffers from nihilistic paralysis: an inability to choose a course of action. As part of a schedule of unorthodox therapies, Horner's nameless Doctor has him take a teaching job at a local teachers college. There Horner befriends the super-rational existentialist Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie, with whom he becomes entangled in a ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published October 28th 1969 by Bantam Books (first published 1958)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,662 ratings  ·  126 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The End of the Road
Ian "Marvin" Graye
The Existence of Metaphysics Precedes the Essence of Metafiction

Barth’s second novel, "The End of the Road" ("TEOTR"), is now usually packaged as part of one volume with his first novel, "The Floating Opera".

In the introduction to the package, Barth gives the impression that "TEOTR" is the lesser of the two, and that both are inferior to his later, more metafictional works. However, there is much of value in both works and especially in "TEOTR".

It's a deeply philosophical novel. However, wha
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The End of the Road is a one way ticket to the blind alley of life.
Now, not only are we the heroes of our own life stories – we're the ones who conceive the story, and give other people the essences of minor characters. But since no man's life story as a rule is ever one story with a coherent plot, we're always reconceiving just the sort of hero we are, and consequently just the sort of minor roles that other people are supposed to play.

Every man is a centre of his own world and the entire unive
Paul Bryant
Jan 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
Here is a really ugly novel that takes a handful of then-fashionable philosophical ideas & pins them onto three or four Iris Murdoch-type stick figures and stirs in two or three melodramatic incidents. Result : wretched. But, you know, it has its fans. It’s one of the 1001 Books you Have to Read by next Wednesday! There they say :

This fiction explores what would happen if certain philosophical positions were worked out in reality.

Well, I think I was reading this wrong. During the reading of this
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

When The People speak, "N.R." listens. This Float which you are experiencing is an Honest Float. There is no cheek and, as Geoff will attest, the tongue is thoroughly chew'd through. On the other hand, I understand that the people (lower case) have already voted to abort this "R"e(re)view. So be it.

So we should take our lead quoting Barth quoting a film critic when that critic declared that while the book ends with an abortion the film is an abortion from beginning to end (durchaus, thoroughly).
MJ Nicholls
Senryu Review:

Does ‘existential’
have four syllables or five?
How I wish I knew.
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it
The first quarter of this book was as good as the last was bad. I literally laughed out loud during the first two chapters, which is a state I don't often find myself in while reading. But then my enjoyment started to deteriorate until it reached the bottom with the introduction of THE GUN. Of course all existentialistic novels deal with death in some way or another, sooner or later, however to bring it up just like that, like nothing had happened, with a casual emergance of this silly object th ...more
Hannah Garden
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: april-2015
I first read this awful book when I was sixteen and Cole Ingersoll loaned me an old paperback copy which I treasured and tore through and then loaned to someone else, forgetting all about it till my twenties when I stumbled across another old well-worn edition in some little used bookstore in northeast Florida and thought, "Isn't this that awful book?" And so on and so forth, every few years or so I come upon a copy and remember how brutal it is, and wonder if it's still as brutal, and pick it u ...more

When Existentialism is not a Humanism anymore

I’m still not sure whether it was a good thing to read The End of the Road immediately after The Floating Opera, even though they are often discussed together and the author himself decided to put them in one volume. Of course, there are some reasons for this decision: not only both novels illustrate the first stage in John Barth’s creation, but they have also some similar themes, motives and structure – existentialism, nihilism, suicide, adulterous t
Nov 12, 2008 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: paralyzed existentialists
In 1951, on the day after his 28th birthday, with his oral exams passed but his master's thesis not even begun, Jacob Horner finds himself in a Baltimore train station, asking the ticket agent where he can go for $30. Cincinnati, Ohio? Crestline, Dayton or Lima, Ohio? He retreats to a bench to make up his mind, but there realizes he has no reason to go anywhere -- not to Ohio, not even back to his apartment. "I simply ran out of motives, as a car runs out of gas," he says. "There was no reason t ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'd had this book's translation on my laptop for several years and wasn't even planning on reading it. I knew it was good but had other things on my mind (including several untouched paperbacks).
This book strikes me with: 1. the characters' mysoginistic attitudes 2. its brilliance and subtext.
I read the book quickly postponing a lot of stuff but I would only advise it to experienced readers not ridden with sexism. Otherwise you may get infected with some very questionable ideas that come up in t
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immortal
Barth breaks your fucking heart and, for me, writes his masterpiece here. Yes, it is a lonely place to be.
Jan 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
I picked up The End of the Road on a whim, on a visit to my father's house when I was looking for something to read on the bus ride back to New York. I remebered having liked the Barth that I had read, it was short enough to read on the five-hour Fung Wah trip, and it had a quaintly dated looking cover that appealed to me. Sadly, the novel contained within was also quaintly dated to a degree that rendered this one a largely unenlinghtening relic from a different era, full of observations about r ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Dec 11, 2012 marked it as filmed
"Whereas the book ends with an abortion, the film is an abortion from beginning to end." --John Barth endorsing a reviewer's judgement.

[Have not seen the film yet. Likely it will never be dvd-released. Probably no need to do so]
This is another of those very challenging novels in which the first person narrator is not particularly likable. Jacob Horner is indecisive, shallow, misogynistic, occasionally lazy, and forgives himself far too easily. A subtle thing in his favor: the doctor he consults for his indecisiveness, verging on paralysis, is an African-American whose race is mentioned when he is introduced (in Maryland, early 1950s, Horner has to buy the Doctor a coffee at the railway station because the doctor is not ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is funny, sad and infuriating, sometimes within the same paragraph. I could see why a reader would consider it a great book, a classic that has and will stand the test of time. I could also see why someone (especially a woman) would consider it sexist tripe that is properly consigned to a time of attitudes in society and in literature that's better left dead.

I think overall it's very good. Not great, though the language sparkles with wit many times, and the author deals with some big i
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Gleck
This book was first published in 1953 and my version is from 1969. I think this book ended on my bookshelf from Dee who I think had it assigned for her freshman english class in college. It also was was made into a movie, but I do not remember the movie. The book cover description describes it as a morality tale, but I found it to be more of a philosophical exploration. The ending was unexpected and left me somewhat unsatisfied, but I found it to be a good story with an interesting writing style ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: must-reads
An excerpt from my book journal on "The End of the Road"

Jake and Joe
The two characters, both Jacob Horner and Joe Morgan, are obviously deranged, highly functional madmen who have come to grips with their manias enough to wield them as tools. The fact that these two men met each other is a cosmic comedy in of itself, but it is a testament to Barth's writing that he avoids making these two characters the most deplorable creatures (at least in my opinion). In many ways, they are animals who roam u
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This is the only John Barth book I have read, and I understand that it pre-dates the more experimental writing style - starting with The Sot-Weed Factor, in 1960 - for which he is best known. Originally published in 1958, the book was revised in 1967; revisions included a new ending. Though the novel may not be representative of Barth's aesthetic, I found it to be fresh and invigorating, until, at the very end, it took the existential crisis of its main characters one step too far, and lost me. ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Wack! Part of the time I had no solid idea what was going on. Our main character Jake is manic depressive but often finds himself in states where he feels nothing at all. He likens his mind to "weather" and when it is void and there is nothing going thru it at all, he sits in his chair and rocks and nothing happens for hours on end in his head or with his person. He is in a state of paralysis. Sounds Buddhist in today's parlance but I don't think that's what's going on for Jake.

Nutter that he i
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
It's a mark of the novels the list has been throwing me recently that a novel this dark and this existential could act as a refreshing interlude! Jacob Horner (the boy in the corner?) is the disaffected youth, paralysed by the choices he feels he's supposed to make, when he bumps into the mysterious Doctor in a train station. The Doctor prescribes an unusual treatment, and Jacob finds himself on the way to the small town of Wicomico and a job at the teacher training college there.

Jacob isn't a
Griff Hibbard-Curto
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A psychological, even philosophical short novel of a young man cursed with a bizarre physical immobility and his relationship with a very particular couple. In some ways this book is the precursor or response to the ‘weatherless’ white male protagonists found abound in postmodernism - our narrator is colored by his mood, and perhaps more often by the strong personalities swirling around him at any given time, which is an honest appraisal of the state of pomo main characters overall. There is a s ...more
Diane Lander-Simon
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: booksiloved
To quote the author, "I wanted the adventure to teach me this about myself: that regardless of what shifting opinions I held about ethical matters in the abstract, I was not so consistently the same person (not so sufficiently "real") that I could not involve myself seriously in the lives of others without doing damage all around, not least to my own tranquility; that my irrational flashes of conscience and cruelty, of compassion and cynicism - in short my inability to play the same role long en ...more
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Most useful book I own. I started reading existential literature when, at age 17, I got the U of Illinois pre - enrollment summer reading list. Kafka and Beckett and a host of other existential writers posit persuasively the meaninglessness of human actions / decisions / effort. To quote the the old poem "you are a fluke of the universe ......... give up". Most existential writing (I'm thinking of Metamorphisis and Godot here) recommend giving up. Barth poses 3 decision rules to allow us to choo ...more
Abe Something
Oct 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes even the most awful people reflect directly back into you. Jacob Horner is the most vile character ever written. This book will crush your soul - will leave you feeling empty - horrible - you'll be in despair ... you will marvel at Barth's skilled hand. Barth can write. If you can read, read this. It is a literary experience the way such experiences should be.

I can't say anything regarding plot points because ever turn of the road is important for you to navigate with a fresh mind.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hmmn. Barth... sometimes you see an author, you see the talent, just not sure it's your cup of tea. That's happening here. Good stretches, a touch of humor, but also some tedious ramblings and it is a bit disturbing around the end.

One of my motivations for picking up this book cheap when I saw it is that I've had Giles Goat-Boy laying around forever, and just have not gotten to reading it, figured this could help me see if I want a larger dose of Barth. Not sure I do.
Descending Angel
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: barth
Paired with Barth's first novel The Floating Opera, The End of the Road deals with similar themes and situations ~ sexuality, existentialism and "a love triangle" but goes in a different direction. More philosophy driven and instead of dealing with suicide, it deals with complicated relationships and abortion, which makes for a tougher read but it is a really interesting little book and worth the read.
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Again, just a micro review. Enjoyed it a lot, don't know why it took me so long to get around to it.

There's a memorable and merciless scene involving a boy scout uniform that has stuck in my mind for years. 'Nuff said.
Jan 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Weird read. Heh. Philosophy and threesomes meet and go horribly wrong in the form of archetypal characters.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favorite existentialist novel. Of course, it doesn't really matter that it is my favorite. Nothing really matters...
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: The End of the Road 3 13 Aug 27, 2019 06:44PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Vineland
  • Libra
  • Gravity's Rainbow
  • Flaubert's Parrot
  • The Recognitions
  • The Best Tales of Hoffmann
  • V.
  • The Loved One
  • Watt
  • Carpenter's Gothic
  • Cosmopolis
  • Underworld
  • Jacques the Fatalist
  • Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
  • Ghosts (The New York Trilogy, #2)
  • Tūla
  • The Peregrine
  • Sanctuary
See similar books…
John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.

John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, and briefly studied "Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration" at Juilliard before attending Johns Hopkins University, receiving a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1952 (for which he wrote a thesis novel, The Shirt of Nessus).

Related Articles

The must-read summer beach book is a kind of American tradition. The crash of the waves. The glare of the sun. The sand in the pages. Is t...
46 likes · 18 comments
“There's a great difficulty in making
choices if you have any imagination at all. Faced with such a multitude of desireable choices, no one choice
seems satisfactory for very long by comparison with the aggregate desirability of all the rest, though compared to any *one* of the others it would not be found inferior. All equally attractive but none finally inviting.”
“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story. Hamlet could be told from Polonius's point of view and called The Tragedy of Polonius, Lord Chamberlain of Denmark. He didn't think he was a minor character in anything, I daresay.” 11 likes
More quotes…