"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy discussion

Last Paragraph

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message 1: by John (new)

John (johnmatthewfox) What do you think the last paragraph means?

message 2: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Sprauve (asprauve) | 20 comments Haha I was thinking about doing an analysis of this passage. Well I will shorten it down considerably for this post and I will do something alternative.

This paragraph elucidates the entire book. If I had to place an importance on one word in the entire book I would choose the first word of this paragraph “Once”. “Once” a four letter basic word that puts emphasis on the implications of this entire book. Cormack McCarthy describes a seen of a beautiful trout swimming upstream he describes the trout in great detail. Every detail he portrays alludes to the world as it once was. The trout in its essence swims upstream, which can be linked to the world fighting to stay the way it was, an upstream fight. He portrays a beautiful soft trout much like the beautiful soft world the way it once was prior to the catastrophe. A world that was tender in comparison to the harsh world as it is post apocalyptic. The trout is soft but strong. With complexity a beautiful combination that made the world an interesting gorgeous place to be discovered but that was all ruined and could not be put back. The last sentence insinuates that man had come into this aw inspiring world unwelcomed; leaving it desolate and destroyed. Leaving the last living destructors to describe it with “Once”.

message 3: by Tara (new)

Tara | 5 comments I completely agree. I would have also said the the word "once" definitely gives the passage depth and meaning and describes the story in one short word. The beautiful trout and its upstream swim reflect the "once" beautiful world, fighting with all its strength against the currents of disaster that awaited. The trout can not only represent the broader topic of the world, but can also represent the father specifically. The father had seen the world in its magnificent glory and now that the apocalypse had consumed the world he "once" knew, he could never be the same again. His journey was an uphill battle, much like a trout's upstream swim. He did everything he could to protect his son and himself from the harsh dangers that flooded the road. McCarthy mentions the maps and mazes on the backs of the trout. These maps and mazes could symbolize the routes taken by the son and his father, in which there was nothing they could do to change the sootcovered earth that they walked on. The road could not change anything of their circumstance. The ending of the paragraph is in a way, eerie. The human race left nothing, but the idea of the once beautiful world. Everything after that is just a blur of catastrophe. Therefore the only word to describe the world as it was left to the uncertain future is with what the paragraph began with: "once"

message 4: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Sprauve (asprauve) | 20 comments I like that angle you took. Looking at it from a closer view with the father and son.

message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather | 19 comments Mod
AJ and Tara both did a very thorough examination of the last paragraph and the only thing that I would add is that I think the trout is a symbol of hope. That even though he refers to a "once" beautiful world as opposed to where they are today, if there is indeed other life, then maybe things will start to get better in the future. It will never be back to the way it once was, but things can't stay like this forever. It can only get better from here.

message 6: by Eric (new)

Eric Vos | 1 comments Great idea. Yet, trout do swim upstream as well as down. They are all over the stream(s)up, down, across, etc.Salmon are more associated with only moving "upstream." I'm reasonalby sure that if CM wanted to speak of our continual battle to move "upstream" he would not have selected trout. Trout actually like to rest behind rocks in the middle of the stream and sit there collecting food. Eddys are another favorite place for trout.

message 7: by Pat (last edited Dec 02, 2015 06:40PM) (new)

Pat | 1 comments It is the image the man allows himself to see as he dies. If you remember there are many times in the story where the man forbids himself thoughts of the past. He knows that to let himself remember could make him soft, vulnerable and then he will not be able to protect the boy. He always has to move forward, keep moving on the road. Only on one occasion does he vividly recall an image of his wife and this occurs when he is exhausted and so his barriers are coming down. At this point he collects himself and banishes the memory. To remember is to risk succumbing to the pull of death. So,tender as his wife's image is to him, he cannot admit it into his consciousness.

So it is only when the man is dying that he allows himself a full and vivid memory. He sees the brook trout in the current of the stream. It is "standing" in the current. The man has been always moving, on the road. The trout by contrast is still as the water flows around it. This represents the stillness the man achieves before dying. The trout is an avatar of the fire he has been carrying. The patterns on its back - maps and mazes of a world in its becoming - tell the story of the journey of life on the planet, from the first fishes in the waters to the last men at the end of the road. It is a heart-breaking image, because it recalls something that is utterly, irredeemably lost. But it is beautiful because the trout was there. Once. The fact that once there were trout is sacred to the man in the time of his dying. It can never be put back, but it can never be undone either. Always there will have been a "once" when the streams were full of brook trout. So the moment mixes absolute loss with a kind of eternity. This really happened. The man saw it and is its witness. He carries the sacred knowledge that this picture in his mind was once true.

The past which he could not think of because it would be death, is released into his consciousness at the moment of his dying. His mind uncurls around an image and it is revealed as life itself - like he was opening up his fist to show the flame he carried in his hand all the time he was on the road. It matters that the world had such moments in it, that there were trout. There were the ancient glens. All of it mysterious and impossible to keep. It's like he lets go of a world and the beauty of that world flares back into existence even as he lets it go. The fish, the way its fins move, even though its in water there's a flicker to it, like the carried fire.

I'm using too many words as its hard to convey all this. Cormac McCarthy did it perfectly in just one paragraph.

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