Death isn't as simple as everyone believes it to be. You don't just go into a deep slumber when you die. Your body remains the same but your mind and consciousness are transported to another home like reality where you go on as if you were alive. In the novel “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy death is described as an ashy and dark world where the sun loses its brightness every day. The novel follows a father and a son journeying through a barren post-apocalyptic U.S where civilization ceases to exist. As they move along on their journey the father and son dodge the malicious cannibals, find shelter, scavenge and do everything in their power in order to survive. McCarthy uses many literary elements such as symbolism, personification, and imagery to portray the message that death can’t be prevented or avoided but only prolonged.
Symbolism is a literary device used by many authors to demonstrate and portray their ideas. In the novel “The Road” McCarthy uses the man’s pistol and the road as a symbol to demonstrate that death is inevitable and you can’t escape it. In the novel, it states that “You think I won’t kill you but you’re wrong. But what I’d rather do is take you up this road a mile or so and then turn you loose. That’s all the head start we need. You won’t find us. You won’t even know which way we went.” (Page 65). This quote shows how the man prefers a nonviolent solution over a violent one so he gives the trucker a choice to leave without any conflict, which shows how he does not want to kill anyone. However, the overwhelming need to protect the one he loves gives the man no choice but to kill as its shown in the novel “leveled the pistol and fired”. (Page 66) Another example stated in the novel is that “...he could see almost to the rear of the box. Human bodies. Sprawled in every attitude. Dried and shrunken in their rotted clothes.” (Page 47)This quote demonstrates that a road is a place of instability and danger. The road reeks of death and is a reminder to the boy and the man of how they can't out run death. On this road the father and son encountered many dangerous events such as seeing scattered remains of corpses, roasting an infant and they encounter dangerous gangs of cannibals. The road also does more than leading people it also consumes them. The road consumed the father, weakening him to the point that he can no longer travel. Death is not escapable because it is all around you and watching your every move.
Imagery is a descriptive and vivid language that the author uses to help create an image in the reader’s mind while a personification is when non-living things are given human characteristics. In the novel McCarthy uses both imagery and personification to describe the man and the boy’s situation in order to portray the theme of death through the eyes of someone who has never witnessed light and doesn’t know what it truly means to be alive. According to the novel, it states that “Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before...looked toward the east for any light but there was none.” (Page 57) This quote proves that in the world where the father and son live in it is lifeless and is not suitable for human lives to survive in. Also, sunrise is known as a symbol of new beginnings and since there is no light from the sun it shows that living in this darkness can only lead to the ending of life. Another example stated in the novel is that “you can think of me as a faithless slut if you like. I’ve taken a new lover. He can give me what you cannot. Death is not a lover.” (Page 57) This quote uses personification to illustrate death as a third character in the novel who is always with the man and the boy, constantly lurking over them manipulating and coaxing them to join him.
In the novel “The Road” Cormac McCarthy uses many literary elements such as symbolism, imagery, and personification to show how death is inedible and if you try to outrun it, it may seem like you have gotten away but death will catch up to you and embrace you tightly like an old friend. McCarthy includes a good man who commits crime and violence with the pure intention of demonstrating that it is a self-reflex for human beings to turn to the dark side when enduring a disaster, trauma or issue that they can not handle on their own. However, he also expresses that learning the true value of love is what keeps us human and prevents us from succumbing to our inner dark and savage side.
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