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Literary Analysis of the Techniques and Events Used in The Road to Show the Parental Love

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Question: What kind of techniques or events does the author use to show the parental love of the man to the boy?

Love contains powerful and affirmative mental states, from the most majestic romance, the intimate interpersonal affection and to the most unsophisticated felicity, like parental love. In The Road, the man and the boy are trekking to the southern US in a post-apocalyptic world where there is the man’s love for the boy. It is parental love in which signifies the close bonding between the man and the boy, as a symbol of the relationship between parents and children. Cormac McCarthy, the author of The Road, applies several techniques and lists some significant events to show love, including the application of a symbol—fire, emblematizing humanity and hope.

The eternal love of the man for the boy is the motivation providing him the power to proceed and to survive. The readers can facilely comprehend the altruistic love of the father and the son in this novel. It is shown through the conversation of the two at a fidgety night:

“Can I ask you something?”

“Yes. Of course you can.”

“What would you do if I died?”

“If you died I would want to die too.”

“So you can be with me?”

“Yes. So I could be with you.”

“Okay.” (McCarthy 9)

The conversation indicates that the boy is the man’s precious treasure as he declared that he would die with his son if the son died, showing the prior state of the boy in the man’s inner world. The boy means the whole world of the man as the boy is the major reason for the man to survive as the boy is depicted as ‘…all that stood between him and death.’ (McCarthy 29)

The man, regarded as having both identities of father and mother, always takes his son to his heart at the first place when discovering the food, warmth, and safety, and disregarding his own health to look after his son. It is because the boy’s mother died when he was an infant as she felt entirely desperate to survive anymore. The man strives to substitute the position of his beloved wife to take care of the boy which can be shown:

‘The man held the boy’s feet against his stomach to warm them’. (McCarthy 36)

The symbolism of the stomach is the place where the mother nourishes the baby during the pregnancy. It is uncommon when the father decides to warm his son’s feet with his stomach that highlights the tenderness of the man.

Also, the tenderness of the man can be seen in the very beginning of The Road:

‘when the man woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him,”

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(McCarthy 1)

The quotation shows the man caresses gently the sleeping boy like a mother touching a baby that is an analogy to the previous quotation (McCarthy 36) for the purpose of expressing the tender deposition of the man leads to his love for the boy become maternal as if the man is the boy’s mother still taking care of the boy.

On the other hand, the man treats the boy as his precious treasure in the journey as he would give any food, warmth, shelter, safety and anything to his son without any condition or profit.

“He withdrew his hand slowly and sat looking at a Coca Cola.

What is it, Papa?

It’s a treat for you”(McCarthy 22)

The man gives the boy a Coca Cola that the boy has never seen and he only wants the child to have the food and the drinks he finds, even he would sacrifice himself to nourish the boy well. It is possible that his son’s life is more valuable than his in the perspective of the man since it has been mentioned that the boy was “all that stood between him and death”, revealing the selfless attitude of the man to love his son.

However, the man cannot entirely take the place of the role of the boy’s mother as the boy said:

‘I wish I was with my mom.’ (McCarthy 56)

This quote indicates that the boy was missing his mother and he was willing to die so that he could meet her again, also revealing that the man was not the mother, just a substitute since it is predetermined that the man is the boy’s father and the woman is the boy’s mother, which is supposed to be unchangeable in reality yet the misfortune befalls upon the son:he would not have mother anymore due to the cold suicide. It is the principle reason for the father to undertake these two identities so as to make up the deficiency of the roles of mother.

Except the above events to manifest the parental love of the man for his son, the man also express his love to the boy by telling him to carry the “fire”. “Fire” implies the humanity left alive but still inside their hearts. Throughout The Road, the boy was pleading his father to assist the travellers en route that means the boy has a kind heart which keeps the “fire”, strongly compared with the attitude of the man. The man did not sense any guilt or any pity for leaving the people stranded in the basement. He instead felt relieved for successfully evading from the basement and protect the boy. Notwithstanding, the boy was depressed that they did not try to help them.

However, the father was conceived by his son’s goodness to concede and then help other survivors instead of always being alarmed of them, for instance, after they found an old man named Ely on the road, the father at last realised that humanity is still on the earth since the kind-heartedness of the boy makes the readers believe that the “fire” of humanity is still burning. The son is sculpted as:

“Someone trying to feed a vulture broken in the road.”

When the boy give their food to the old man Ely (McCarthy 163). This flame is a flicker of light in a post-apocalyptic world, yet it gives the father a sense that the hope for humanity is still existing.

In conclusion, Cormac McCarthy has demonstrated different softly fragrant events between the man and the boy to present an intimate father-son relationship to the readers to know the love is the greatest power driving them to journey and live. The man sets an example of the greatness of the parental love for a child and the boy represents the last hope of humanity in the post-apocalyptic world. This relationship not only represents a performance of parental love, but it also reveals the characteristics of the two:the man is tender and the boy is good-natured. The boy carries the “fire” which is the lesson taught by his father to continue to live as he is the hope of humanity. No matter how arduous and perilous the journey was, the love accompanied them and drove them to proceed on this incessant road towards the “land of hope and glory”.

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Literary Analysis of the Techniques and Events Used in The Road to Show the Parental Love. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Literary Analysis of the Techniques and Events Used in The Road to Show the Parental Love.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Literary Analysis of the Techniques and Events Used in The Road to Show the Parental Love. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
Literary Analysis of the Techniques and Events Used in The Road to Show the Parental Love [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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