Secular Winds

Feb 11, 05:26 by IROSF

Comment Below!
Feb 16, 17:30 by Karl Bunker
I'm not familiar with any other analytic writings about The Road, but it seems very questionable to me to assume that nuclear war is the cause of the novel's back-story apocalypse. The nature of the destruction as described doesn't fit any recognizable scenario that would result from a nuclear war, and there is no mention of radiation, radioactive fallout or cities showing clear signs of nuclear explosions. I might be wrong on this point, but I don't even recall any mention in the book of humankind being responsible for the disaster. So saying that The Road "warns of the folly of nuclear destruction" strikes me as unsupported and inappropriate.

Similarly, I'm not convinced by this article that a Christian, biblical form of redemption is a central theme to the book. What few direct references the father makes to Christianity can easily be taken as the scattered musings of a man with no more than a desultory relationship with religion. Certainly the horrors the father has witnessed have caused him to think hard and deep on issues of spirituality, God, the nature of good and evil and what not, but is the final redemption genuinely a Christian redemption, or more simply, more directly, more supportably, just an example of "the redemptive quality of love"?

Following the scattered threads of Christian faith (some of those threads obvious, some speculative) through the text of The Road is an interesting exercise, and one that this article does a good job of. But ultimately I'm not convinced that those threads add up to anything substantial.
Feb 16, 17:33 by Lois Tilton
The landscape portrays a "nuclear winter", but there are several other possible causes for this phenomenon, such as volcanic activity.
Feb 17, 15:31 by Karl Bunker
Even the notion that the climate is undergoing a nuclear winter (whether caused by nuclear war or not) isn't supported by the text of the novel, as far as I know. The closest indication of such a thing I could find is "They were moving south. There'd be no surviving another winter here." which occurs early in the book. It's not clear whether the problem is colder winters, dwindling resources, poorer health, or what.

It's my impression that McCarthy is deliberately vague to the point of opaqueness on the nature of the disaster. This might be because he didn't want to be accused of writing "science fiction", because he wanted to tailor every detail of his bleak landscape without concern as to what the real effects of any real disaster would be, or (most likely, IMO) because he thought this would be an irrelevant distraction from the story he wanted to tell.

That's why I think it's inappropriate to say the story "warns of the folly of nuclear destruction". Doing that is (IMO) inserting an element into the text that McCarthy went out of his way to exclude.
Feb 17, 16:22 by Lois Tilton
I agree that McCarthy was deliberate in not assigning a cause to the calamity, but his descriptions are suggestive, such as the references to ubiquitous ash, the gray sky apparently filled with ash to the point of excluding the sunlight. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa produced a similar effect.

McCarthy certainly went out of his way to avoid the subject, to treat the setting as a given, but readers, and particularly SF readers, will always speculate, regardless of the author's wishes. SF has always been, after all, a largely apocalyptic literature, and these scenarios are familiar to readers. I'm sure that we are all familiar with the prediction that the cockroaches will inherit the Earth, and I must admit to a difficulty in coming up with a plausible scenario that allows human survival and excludes roaches.

Would the starving humans in McCarthy's landscape eat cockroaches to survive? I'd bet on it.
Feb 18, 01:05 by Michael Andre-Driussi
Post-apocalyptic roaches?

I love "Wall-E," but (IIRC) a History channel show/DVD, "Life After People" (2008), makes an ecological argument that cockroaches really do need humans (their warm cities, their abundance of foodstuffs and garbage) to survive. After the humans vanish, the roaches would eventually have to migrate out of the cold dead cities, regressing to being cricket-like critters of the woods, in much smaller numbers.

So in the near term, roaches might be around (depends on the nature of the apocalypse), but the longer term prospects of post-apocalyptic roaches are not nearly as rosy as we always joked. Sorta ironic that they need cities more than humans do!

Might be more a delicacy, like truffles.
Feb 18, 01:35 by Lois Tilton
OK: termites.

Yummy termites, all that dead rotting wood around to eat and a lot of them don't even go out in the sun anyway.
Feb 18, 03:18 by Michael Andre-Driussi
Termites: the Other White Meat.
Feb 19, 02:48 by Bluejack
There were scenes of melted construction, glassy surfaces, humans fused into the asphalt, that strongly support the nuclear scenario.
Feb 19, 16:29 by Lois Tilton
There were firestorms, that's clear. A great burning, all the ash. But nothing to suggest radiation. The father is sick - we don't know why - but not the son.

In a way, the scenario is more compatible with the fantastic - an inexplicable cataclysm from some source supernatural.
Feb 19, 20:03 by Lois Tilton
This seems to be one of those reading protocol things. We, here, tend to read the novel as SF, which it is - a classical post-apocalypse novel. But it's quite likely that McCarthy didn't intend it to be read as such.

While I'm hardly an expert on McCarthy, I've read a number of his books, which seem to focus on the journey of an innocent through a landscape of moral evil. These works have all been realistic fiction, and the descriptions are notable for an intense realism in depicting the settings, the physical landscape.

Read as a continuation of the author's other novels, The Road seems to be taking the landscape of moral evil to its ultimate conclusion. The physical setting is just as clearly detailed; what is missing is the explanation of how it came about.

But this is what the science fiction reader is trained to look for - how the apocalypse came about, how the setting got to the point at which we find it. Does it make sense in SFnal terms?

And that just isn't the game that McCarthy seems to be playing; the ambiguity is deliberate.

Feb 19, 22:53 by Bluejack
McCarthy is no stranger to the fantastic though: in (one of my favorites) Blood Meridian, a central figure in the story is "The Judge" who is incrementally revealed as a supernatural being, although of what source or substance is (of course) never revealed.
Feb 20, 00:15 by Lois Tilton
Ah, now that is one I haven't read. I'll be sure to look for it.
   

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