The Road: Relationship Between the Father and Son

One theme in The Road is paternal love; this is the relationship between the father and his son. Their bond plays a powerful part in the novel and impacts the decisions made during their journey. The two protagonists remain unnamed in the book, giving their familial relationship their full identity. This makes their relationship relatable to any parent and child bond outside of the novel. It is clear that they only have each other’s company and that the father feels that his only job is to protect his son from any danger.
However, the son’s purpose is to “carry the fire”, a metaphor that keeps readers guessing about what the fire reflects. It could be that the father and son both carry their morals; they do not steal from the living, kill or eat others. Alternatively, it could be seen that the boy is carrying the fire to lead humanity forward, towards a better future. Their relationship doesn’t change dramatically in the novel. However despite their beliefs, the father begins to go against them. He steals from the living and kills two people.
Although these were done in order to protect his son, the boy became upset with his father when he took back their belongings from a man who stole from them, leaving him with nothing. This portrays the child’s caring personality. He is very different from his father; he trusts others and wants to help them. Mccarthy does not state the names of these characters, but readers know that they are father and son. We know this as the child consistently calls him “papa”. The reason for this is that it makes it universal, allowing any reader to relate with the characters, particularly a father.

Also, it is significant as it contributes to the idea of the unknown. The cause of the apocalypse remains ambiguous to readers and the lack of names reflects the vagueness of the novel. I believe it makes their relationship appear a lot stronger as it gives a sense of solitude between them. The father and son have very different personalities. The father is deeply suspicious about other travellers and their intentions. This is understandable as we come across the bad guys in the novel who intend on impregnating women and then eating their children as well as other travellers.
He feels that it his duty by God to protect his son. Therefore this represents why he is so untrusting of others. On the other hand, the son is quite the opposite. He continually shows that he wants to help those in need and has faith in humanity. For instance when they find the man who stole their belongings, the father has no qualms about taking their things back and leaving him naked in the road. “He was just hungry papa, he’s going to die” – although the boy knows that the man stole from them he still wants to help him. The child is very caring and concerned towards others.
This may be because he has little knowledge about the dangers that could happen and maybe does not believe that there are many bad guys. Alternatively, it could be seen that he has faith about what may happen in the future and so is willing to give food to strangers. Another example is when they find a pile of food hidden in an underground bunker. The boy didn’t want to take it until they made sure that no one was alive there to have it. He then thanks the people for leaving the food – “we know that you saved it for yourself and if you were here we wouldn’t eat it no matter how hungry we were”.
The boy is very warm-hearted and the prayer demonstrates that he has faith in God. He is also respecting his morals in not stealing from the living. In contrast to his son, the father has lost his faith in God and curses him frequently in the novel. “Damn you eternally have you a soul? ” – although it appears he believes in God, he blames him for the life himself and his son both have. Their contrasting personalities have an effect on their relationship. It is not clear at the beginning but towards the end it becomes apparent of what each of their purpose is.
The father’s sole purpose is to guide his son to the coast and teach him how to survive along the way. The son however is the ‘faith’ within the story. He is the hope for a better future. The son is more trusting towards others and therefore becomes upset and quiet when his father doesn’t agree with him. “I’m afraid for that little boy” – The son has never seen another young boy and is frightened for him but his father shrugs off his pleas to help him and says “I know but he’ll be alright”.
Towards the end of the book it appears that the father and his son become distant to each other due to their diverse personalities. It could however be seen that the son is a lot more knowledgeable about dangers and therefore does not need his father as much. The boy is very warm-hearted and appears to struggle to understand that danger could occur at any moment, whilst his father knows a lot more about what some people, “the bad guys”, do in order to survive. It could be seen that the child is very naive and therefore trusts others more than his father.
However his trust in others teaches his father a valuable lesson; that not everyone is a “bad guy”. For instance when the pair come across Ely, the father is wary about him but his son is adamant that they give him a tin of food. This shows to readers that the boy has faith unlike his father. Another example is when the son sees the little boy; he begs his father to go back and help him and asks if he can go with them. I believe that he wants to help others as for he would want someone to help him if he were alone and in their position.
This could be seen as foreshadowing the upcoming event of his father dying and the son being found and taken care of by strangers. The boy is always apprehensive when his father leaves him to search through a house. However this could be seen that he does not like being alone and could be a hint of his father’s fate. The boy is taught how to survive throughout their journey and is told that he must shoot himself in the mouth if anyone tries to harm them. I feel that the father believes that he owes it to his son to have a pain-free life.
After all he made the decision to continue surviving with his son. This makes their relationship very unique, as the father clearly believed there was a chance in humanity at the start but slowly begins to lose his faith, whereas his son has strong beliefs about the future. This could show that the father’s faith has been passed on to his son. This relates to how they are “carrying the fire”, symbolising that they are carrying faith. Their relationship only subtly changes in the novel. It is very strong throughout despite their very different personas. I feel that the father is olely trying to protect his son, who of which is the only reason his father is still fighting. They each have different purposes and the sons is to “carry the fire”, symbolic of his faith.
The change in their relationship is that the son becomes more aware about dangers and learns how to survive on his own, not needing his father as much as he did at the start of the novel. Another change may be that they become distant due to their trust or lack of it in others. The father trusts no one but his own son, whilst the boy wishes to help people who he believes are good.
This causes the son to become upset with his father when he doesn’t let his son help others. Readers may feel that the father is doing the right thing by not helping others as they will both lose food and time. Alternatively, readers could side the boy and deem the father as selfish. They may believe that the boy is sticking by his morals of helping those in need. In conclusion their relationship, I believe, does not change dramatically but however their differences collide when the boy shows to his father that not everybody is a “bad guy”.

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