Tag Archives: John Hillcoat

A few thoughts on what caused the end of the world in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

How do you know if you were the last man on earth? He said.

I don’t guess you would know it. You’d just be it. [pg180]

In Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the end of the world begins with “A long shear of light and then a series of low percussions.” [p54]  The details are vague and could be applicable to a number of post-apocalyptic scenarios, but maybe they are the words of a man who witnessed the after-effects of a super volcanic eruption. In The Road, a Nuclear Winter has descended on an unspecified region of America and everything is left covered in a thick layer of dust, the sunlight cannot penetrate the clouds and everyday is as grey as a cloudy winter’s morning. For the ‘Man’ and ‘Boy’, the greyness is perpetual and even time itself has fled from the world, “The clocks stopped at 1:17.” [pg54] Calendars are no longer kept, the Man doesn’t know how long they’ve been travelling the road and there are no seasons or lasting referents to our concept of modernity. Everything they touch is the same – broken or dead, the world smells of ash or the sour stink of rotting corpses and the food which they eat is tainted and rotting. Continue reading

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A Few Thoughts on Missing Thumbs in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

The thumb is very versatile, it is a universal signifier which crosses language barriers and it’s the most flexible part of our hand; we use it to grip things, to steady the barrel of a gun as we take a shot, manacled in chains you would need it to turn a key in a lock. In Shakespeare, to bite one’s thumb was considered an insult, for children it’s a pacifier, for others (when sucked) it’s a sign of cowardice, there’s also the ubiquitous thumbs up – everything is a.ok. But in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, things couldn’t be further from the truth, because the thumb or rather lack of, signifies that something terrible has happened in the character’s past. Continue reading

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