In Cormac McCarthy’s celebrated The Road—we are in a world of pervading darkness and gloom, of desperation—There were few nights lying in the dark that he did not envy the dead.—of a world turned to ash. He walked out into the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the interstate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.
A father and son. Each needs the other to survive: the boy needs someone to care for him and protect him, the man needs a reason to live. He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.
The only way for hope to manifest is to move forward. Or, rather, to move forward is to convince one’s self of hope, of the possibility of it. And so they trudge on. It is moving that matters. The false promise that the road ends eventually in some place brighter. On the road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?
Here, a pervading monotony of desperation: No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. All things of grace and heading such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy, I have you. Here, this love—not hope, not strength, not faith—simple, given, necessary love. [“I have you,” he said.]
But why do we read on? Because we want answers, closure? Because McCarthy weaves a tale all-too chilling that you have to believe that humanity will redeem itself in the end? Because we believe in the tenacity of the human spirit? Because we love the man and his son, and we want them to survive whole—they’re the good guys, you see, they carry the light? Because we want the man to be telling the truth when he tells his son that they’re the good guys, that they carry the light? That they carry the light Boats against the [ashen] current, and all that.