The Road by Cormac McCarthy discussion

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The Use of God

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

The boy often brings up God in conversation with the man, but never the other way around. After the flare gun is fired over the ocean, the boy asks if the flare gun would let anybody see them. Somebody like God. The man responds, "Yeah. Maybe somebody like that." He doesn't seem to acknowledge or dismiss the notion. Even on his deathbed, the man doesn't say anything about a sort of heaven or deity, only that the boy will still be able to talk to him. Why do you think that is? Has the man lost faith where the boy has not? Either way, the man always accepts his son's belief in God, perhaps just for the hope that his son will have something to hold on to after he is gone.


message 2: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
I don't think that the man has lost faith completely. I think that if he had he would have killed both himself and his son long before. I really believe that the man found God in his own son. "If he is not the word of God God never spoke."


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, that notion makes sense, Johanna. The son seems almost Jesus-like in several parts of the book. At one point in the book (page 273 in mine) the man sees his son stare back at him and describes him as, "glowing in that waste like a tabernacle".


message 4: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
I completely missed that line when I was reading it but it's exactly what I meant. The man really views his son as being God in a world where he hasn't been able to find God for many years.


message 5: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Hellmich | 8 comments I feel that the man is just being a good dad. I feel that he is just accepting whatever the boy does to keep him positive and I do believe that the man has lost faith. It seems like he is viewing his son as God because his son is so innocent and perfect, as to where everyone else, including himself, are not. Its almost like he is protecting the "word of God" by protecting his son.


message 6: by Ryan Burns (new)

Ryan Burns | 4 comments I think the reason that the man never brings up god is because unlike the child, he has been through much more, he has much more knowledge, and he most likely doesn't believe. The man most likely believes that if there was a god, there is no way that he would let this terrible thing happen.

The man probably doesn't share his opinion with his child because for the man, all he lives for is the child. The child has much less to live for, and in this case, a god figure is a good sense of hope.


message 7: by Johanna (last edited Dec 03, 2010 10:11AM) (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
I would agree that the father's struggle has caused him to lose his belief in God, but I definitely disagree about the child. I know that the father has lost a lot, but the boy has completely lost his childhood. I'm still trying to figure out how with everything that he goes through he still finds a way to believe in a greater good.

And I don't believe he has any less to live for than the father. The man lives for the boy and the boy lives for the man. Which is why I think the ending is so heartbreaking. The man dies, so what does the child have to live for now?


message 8: by Tylerankarlo (new)

Tylerankarlo | 8 comments I think that he does not acknowledge the afterlife because the Father has been through a lot of things in his life. I think that at one point he did believe in God and trust in Him, otherwise how would the son know about Him? I think that because of the new world they live in and how the father has been effected he does not believe in God.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Page 11:
"Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God."

It is clear even at the beginning of the book that the father has lost faith in and become angry at the God that he perhaps trusted in the "long ago". The fact that the man fuels his sons beliefs is only to boost his morale and perhaps give him someone to follow after his immanent death. At the end of the story, however, when the man dies we see that even though the boy maintains his faith in God, he can more clearly talk to his father. This again reinforces the idea that they are each other's Gods. Or, as McCarthy writes on page 6 they are, "...each the other's world entire."


message 10: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
Why do you guys think the boy still believes then? Like I said above he's been through a lot as well.

Maybe it's because he still has his father. I think it's easier for him to hold on to something that he believes is protecting him if he still has someone there actually protecting him.


message 11: by John (new)

John (johnmatthewfox) To sons, fathers are the model for God, and that's why we see the conflation after the father's death with speaking to God and talking to the father. It's not only that the father sees God in the son, ("if he is not the Word of God, God never spoke"), but that the son sees God in the father.

But you can hardly blame the father for losing faith and starting to resent God, as represented in Westra's quote. That seems entirely understandable, and it would almost be too sentimental or naive if both characters maintained a faith in that scorched land.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

You got that right, Johanna. The man is the boy's guide and guardian. This definitely makes it easier to believe in a higher and stronger protective force. But it's also important to remember that the boy is still a boy even though they are traveling though a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The boy definitely has a greater capacity to believe in what he cannot see. His youth also allows him to evaluate right and wrong in black and white, whereas the man tends to see the moral gray area in between.


message 13: by Johanna (new)

Johanna Smith | 17 comments Mod
"His youth also allows him to evaluate right and wrong in black and white, whereas the man tends to see the moral gray area in between." That's so very true. And interesting as well because McCarthy uses the color gray so much through out the book. But I agree. The boy still has this rare ability to put things into two boxes, good or evil. Think about the way he questioned his father when they used the supplies stored in that hidden cellar they found. He didn't want to eat the food unless it was justified. It's easier for him to believe in God because he doesn't blame Him for the evil in the world. If there's only two things to be, good or evil, it's easy to believe that there is a god that brings that good into the world. The father can only see gray now and it's almost impossible to understand where a god would play part in that. At least a caring god.


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