The Road by Cormac McCarthy discussion

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Lack of names/Structure

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message 1: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
I think the first thing I'll tackle is the lack of names in this book. I can't remember if someone in class asked why it's just "the man" and "the boy" but I know Fox asked us to think about it and consider how it changed the genre of the book. To me, the whole book seems like a parable. An extremely long parable (which I guess means it's not a parable) though. I think this makes the book less of a story and more of a message.

I'm really enjoying the way that the book is written. It's so different from everything that I'm used to reading. I love how half of the story is told in the style of the writing. I find that the structure helps illustrate the world that McCarthy has created for us.


message 2: by Ryan Burns (new)

Ryan Burns | 4 comments I'm not really positive if I'm supposed to be commenting on here or posting a new discussion, but I figure that continuing this one makes more sense.

I'm also enjoying the way this book was written, and I actually think that there are a few reasons for the lack of names in the novel. First of all, if you notice, "the boy," "the man," and "she" are the only references really needed. Names would most likely just complicate things, when the situation in the book is fairly simple.

Also, the lack of names contributes to the vagueness of the plot, especially at the beginning. Neither the location nor the year are stated.

Another reason I think would make sense for the lack of names is because it gives a sense of solitude. We learn that these are not the ONLY people left on earth, but they are the few that "carry the fire." They are the few good people left.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, the way the book is written does add to the story. It's broken down nature seems to reflect the world it is set in. The lack of quotation can add a little mystery sometimes when it is difficult to distinguish inner-dialouge with speech.

The fact that there are no names also adds to the broken down feel of the story, but it also shows that in a world without identity, names are insignificant. When the man and the boy meet "Ely" he explains that he doesn't want to share his name because he "could be anybody". When everyone is a stranger, and people behave like animals, all things from the "long ago" fade away. Even names.


message 4: by John (new)

John (johnmatthewfox) @Ryan If you're responding to Johanna's ideas, then post in this thread. If you want to start a new discussion topic, start a new thread.


message 5: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
(I'm gonna call you guys by your last name ok? :) )

Burns, I really like your point about the vagueness of the plot. We never really get a good understanding of what happened before the first page of this book. That sort of ties in with that Westra said about things fading away. We don't know what happened before so we don't need to know who the man and the boy were before. Now, they're just the man and the boy and that is all that's important.


message 6: by Tylerankarlo (new)

Tylerankarlo | 8 comments I think that the way the book was written is very unique. I realized that McCarthy doesn't use apostrophes in contractions and when there is a dialogue there are no quotations. Maybe this is a way that he gives the reader a feeling of the setting in the book, a vast nothingness lacking color and anything exciting.


message 7: by Tylerankarlo (new)

Tylerankarlo | 8 comments I also agree with Burns that the lack of names is very appropriate for this book, it would just complicate things if everyone had names. Also, I think no names is what makes the book so suspenseful and a good read. At first it is confusing without the names, then you get to know what kind of things each character would say and it gets easier to interpret who is speaking.


message 8: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
"a vast nothingness lacking color and anything exciting." I like that. It's also lacking a structure that we're used to, the same way that the book is lacking a structure that is natural to us.


message 9: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Hellmich | 8 comments I like Cormac's style of writing in the book alot. I am not sure if he uses this style for all his books but he did use it in No Country for Old Men as well. And I agree with Tyler's idea about Cormac using this style to sort of give the reader a feeling of the setting. I also think that this style is much easier to read because there was some literature that had too much punctuation or contractions that I had no idea what they meant.


message 10: by John (new)

John (johnmatthewfox) @Ryan He doesn't use the style in all the books, but he certainly uses it in some. He has a very different style in Blood Meridian, his most famous novel, which has more of a maximalist approach to writing, full and chunky with words.

"In two days they began to come upon bones and cast-off apparel. They saw halfburied skeletons of mules with the bones so white and polished they seemed incandescent even in that blazing heat and they saw panniers and packsaddles and the bones of men and they saw a mule entire, the dried and blackened carcass hard as iron. They rode on. The white noon saw them through the waste like a ghost army, so pale they were with dust, like shades of figures erased upon a board. The wolves loped paler yet and grouped and skittered and lifted their lean snouts on the air. At night the horses were fed by hand from sacks of meal and watered from buckets. There was no more sickness. The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night. They moved on and the iron of the wagon-tired grew polished bright as chrome in the pumice. To the south the blue cordilleras stood footed in their paler image on the sand like reflections in a lake and there were no wolves now."

As you can see, even in Blood Meridian he was already avoiding commas and starting to employ polysyndeton and other techniques to minimize punctuation. But he hadn't yet gotten to the minimalism of No Country and The Road.


message 11: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
It think his writing depends on the world that he's trying to create in his books. I haven't read Blood Meridian, but I can imagine that the great detail and wordiness contribute to the story and perhaps the setting that McCarthy is creating for his readers. In The Road, we're supposed to get this feeling of emptiness. There's so much in this book, but it's not a long or climactic story. The characters are sort of plain. And yet the story is beautiful and heartbreaking. The characters are so real and different. I think it's the same way with the writing. At face value, you don't see much. But when you start digging a little deeper and interpreting it's meaning there's so much meaning in every sentence that it's hard to grasp.


message 12: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Hellmich | 8 comments @Prof Fox Do you think he uses this style of writing based on the setting of the novel? Because I have not read Blood Meridian but when you described it in class you said it was a sort of Western story. So I dont know if he kinda just slowly changed to this style of writing or if he just simply transissions back and forth between styles?


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