Like Father, Like Son
Like Father, Like Son Man’s goal in life is not to do something incredible during his lifetime, but instead to leave something incredible behind for future generations to act and build on. In Cormac Mccarthy’s The Road, a man and his son struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic era. The majority of this struggle revolves around the lack of food in the world and the boy’s constant fear of life itself. In order to combat these struggles, the man is forced to have all faith and must keep trekking forward to teach his son never to give up on life.
Although throughout the novel, these constant challenges never seem to be conquerable, the man never seems to lose hope up until the moment that he dies. The boy who acts cowardly and frightened during his adventures with his father has two choices to make once his father passes: he can become fearful and give up on life or he can continue the struggle that he and his father built and sought together. Because the father instilled such pride and determination in his son, the man’s legacy will never be lost.
Even in such dire times, the boy’s willingness to continue to fight without his father allows for some sort of brighter future and does moderately redeem the generally bleak tone of the former part of the novel. Throughout most of the novel, Mccarthy gives little hope for the man and the boy. It appears that the two of them are just wandering from one desolate place to the next, sometimes meeting new people who are either dangerous or of little benefit to them.
It appears as if continuing with life is more of a punishment; choosing to live is harder than just letting one’s self to die or to commit suicide. In a conversation between the the man and his son, it is clear to see just how calamitous the situation, “go to sleep. I wish I was with my mom. He didn’t answer. He sat beside the small figure wrapped in the quilts and blankets. After a while he said: you mean you wish you were dead. Yes. You musnt say that. But I do. Don’t say it. It’s a bad thing to say. I cant help it. I know. But you have to. How do I do it? I don’t know” (Mccarthy, 55).
Since the boy has seen his mother take her own life at this point to end the struggle, the boy thinks that that is a possible escape route out of this wretched, bare post-apocalyptic world. It is hard for the father to explain to his son that death is not an option because even though the man is to determined to keep fighting, he still realizes that death is a legitimate option. The topic of death itself makes for a generally bleak tone throughout the novel with very little hope. The boy continues to fear death as the man and the boy converse the topic, “Can I ask you something? e said. Yes. Of course. Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now” (79). This continues to reveal to boy’s constant struggle of life. The father’s remark to the boy’s question is even a bit witty. The father often tries to downplay the extremity of their dire and daunting situation by using such dialect with the boy. Despite all of these depressing conversations between the two of them, the man continually attempts to instill his values of willpower and purpose to give his son motivation for this continual battle.
The man says, “Listen to me, he said, when your dreams are of some world that never was or some world that never will be, and you’re happy again, then you’ll have given up. Do you understand? And you can’t give up, I won’t let you” (160). The man knows that his it is almost inevitable that he will pass before his son and that when that time comes his son will have to be ready to take the world on without his father to have his back every single day. Because of this world that the man and his son have been accustomed to, the man can never show any signs of weakness or fear.
Any vulnerability that is shown by him will be reflected negatively to the boy and thus would stick with him forever. The man is not necessarily trying to show the boy this pride and determination to make himself happy or even to excite the boy. The man is showing the boy this so that when the man eventually passes, the boy will be ready to take on the world by himself with having no fear and all faith in himself. The man explains to the boy, “just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that. You forget some things, don’t you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget” (10). The man believes that what he continually tells his son about life will always stay there with him. The boy will always want to forget the loss of his father because it will make him sad, but he will never be able to forget the values that his father has taught him. The man will do anything in the world for his son. “Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand? ” (77).
The man believes he is destined to do anything for his son; his son is his legacy and therefore his son is a part of him. This love between man and son goes so deep that the man is poised anything in the world for him. As the novel progresses, the man becomes weak and comes to the conclusion that it is his time to go. The boy does not know what to do; he does not want to continue living without his father who has looked after him and been there for him throughout his whole life. In the father’s final waking moments he tells the boy, “you have to make it like talk that you imagine.
And you’ll hear me. You have to practice. Just don’t give up. Okay? ” (279). He wants the boy to always remember not only the memories they have had together, but more importantly all of the lessons and values that can be taken from his father. The boy is scared and becomes anxious about the future once his father has finally passed, but continues to endure the struggle that he and his father started together. Eventually the boy finds a family that appears to be very nice and allows for an ending at is able to redeem to bleak tone that the majority of the novel provides.
The boy asks this new family about the fire, “are you carrying the fire? Am I what? Carrying the fire. You’re kind of weirded out, aren’t you? No. Just a little. Yeah. That’s okay. So are you? What, carrying the fire?. Yes. Yeah we are” (283). Although this man may or may not know what the boy is talking about, the boy is satisfied that they are “carrying the fire” and feels more protected and safe. The boy has used these values that his father has taught him to persevere by himself and gives the end of the novel a much optimistic outlook.
Although the man has passed away at the end of the novel, there is still hope for a positive outcome for the boy. All the man ever wanted was for his son to continue the legacy that he had started. The man did everything he could have to make sure that this hope can be a reality; the man instilled in his son such values of pride, determination, and purpose in life that the boy struggled with at first. Because the boy was able to find a nice family that he can share the struggle with and continue to “carry the fire” their is optimism that will lead the boy to a brighter future.