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Conflict of Spiritual Belief in McCarthy’s Novel The Road: Critical Analysis

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The Road demonstrates diverse perspective in renewal be making readers question not only spiritual beliefs but the existence of god. Throughout The Road there is a conflict of spiritual belief that is demonstrated by the main characters own uncertainty. McCarthy’s novel could be seen as an agnostic novel with multiple characters believing in god and others completely rejecting the idea of god, “There is no God and we are his prophets”. The main character of the book, the man, continues to switch between doubting and believing, “He raised his face to the paling day. Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God.” The tone McCarthys uses throughout the novel continues the many occurrences of faith and doubt. However, the central feature of the tone is that of religious belief, “The child was his warrant… If he is not the word of God God never spoke.” Which shows the faith the father that his son is the future of the world and has followed god plan to survive thus far. However, the father also can’t see how there is a god in the apocalyptic world, “God was the savior of our sins, but now the world is a sin along with everyone inside it.” In which the character questions if there is a god and why he would allow the world to fall. The events of the novel itself switches between the two extremes much like the man with the atmosphere and wording being bleak and horrifying as if trying to convince the reader that there is no god. However, a lyrical, hopeful passage will suggest that god may exist. Although the novel remains agnostic, McCarthy may have suggested throughout the novel that the sacred is that of other people.

McCarthy’s novel The road challenges literature conventions as it doesn’t follow most post-apocalyptic literature of its time. McCarthy displays an unfeasibly brutal world that feels real. With use of high imagery McCarthy creates a world where there is no more manufacturing or framing with most of the natural world being destroyed, “Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.” with only the remains of capitalism left. The road further diverges from the usual post-apocalyptic worlds by using desolate and colourless surroundings, “Charred and limbless trunks of trees… sagging hand of blind wire strung got blackened light poles. McCarthy further diverges by creating a real life world by giving the reader the trivial tasks of daily life as the father and son travel.

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McCarthy further challenges literature conventions by creating a dislocation between the reader and the son. While The Road is modeled after Earth, there are parts throughout the novel which create both a familiar feeling in the reader and dislocation. “He sat and ran his hand around in the works of the gutted machines and in the second one it closed over a cold metal cylinder. He withdrew his hand slowly and sat looking at a Coca Cola.

What is it, Papa?

It’s a treat. For you.” This further pushes the dislocation as the 10 year old has never had Coke a beverage that is common for most children to have tried along with the Coke representing the fall of capitalism. The road demonstrates the conflict in spiritual beliefs creating diverse perspectives on renewal McCarthy does this by challenging literature conventions and creating a realistic bleak and grim world.

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Conflict of Spiritual Belief in McCarthy’s Novel The Road: Critical Analysis. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
“Conflict of Spiritual Belief in McCarthy’s Novel The Road: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Conflict of Spiritual Belief in McCarthy’s Novel The Road: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sept. 2023].
Conflict of Spiritual Belief in McCarthy’s Novel The Road: Critical Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from:
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