McCarthy Unabridged: The Road, Page 251

​The passage below is what I have imagined was cut from the top of page 251 in Cormac McCarthy's, The Road. It begins after the sentence, "He fell into a dreamless sleep."

While the man slept motionless the boy remained suffering under a fitful spate of fever dreams. The man was carrying him, stumbling and stopping to cough every twenty counted steps until he finally succumbed to exhaustion dropping to his knees. The boy fell to the ground. The low hung fog compressed them into the earth until the boy was choking on ashes. Stiff and silent. A movement just to the left of him caught the boys and he was instantly blinded by a white unseen before. A dove rustled in the wet cinder and the boy watched rapturous as white wings stretched into the unyielding slate sky. Too soon obsidian spliced the rising light. The mans hand encircled the avian neck wrenching it to earth before the sobbing boy. Eat youre starving the man said shoving the shadowblackened bird into the boys mouth. 

The boys eyes shot open to ashen sky. He laid there listening to his ragged breaths climb up and down the ladder of protruding ribs. Nothing moved in the birdless sky. Dull waves broke against the shore in the distance. The boys lips were cracked from dehydration but the rain had stopped, not that it would provide respite. He focused his gaze on his sleeping father waiting for him to wake.
Below is a rationale to explain the creative choices I took in creating my "lost" passage. 

I decided to write a dream, because they’re a prevalent motif throughout the book. The relationship between the man and the boy changes towards the end of the book as the man takes more drastic actions to keep the boy safe and alive. I chose to place my creative writing when the boy has a fever. After he wakes up he talks about how he had weird dreams (fever dreams), but he doesn’t want to disclose them. When reading that page, I was curious as to what he dreamt about and if it had anything to do with his father being a good guy or a bad guy.

“Good guys and bad guys” is the theme that connects to the first essential question: Can good people do bad things and still be good? The man has walked this line a few times. He won’t share food which can be considered a bad thing, but it is for the longevity of his son’s life. In the dream I wrote, the man kills a bird, but it’s because his son is starving. The bird motif was important for me to address because it has symbolized freedom and innocence. The man in the dream sacrifices that to keep his son alive, which is a comment on another essential question: Is there a time to stop surviving and die? The boy would never sacrifice something as pure and rare as a bird just to stay alive a little while longer.

This dream is foreshadowing the scene with the thief that is about to take place and is reflective of the way their relationship has evolved. In the next scene the man is brutal to the thief and essentially condemns him to death because he threatened the life of his son. In that moment he is a bad guy. Light and dark are also important motifs because often McCarthy indicates that the man lives in the grey space in between. In the dream, he kills the bird to save the boy even though the boy protests. The father forces the boy to live even if it goes against the boy’s own moral code. 

My McCarthy-esque word could either be spate, rapturous, or shadowblackened. Spate is just a very uncommon word and I feel like that is something McCarthy has mastered. Rapturous is another uncommon word and it has a biblical connotation. It is also a surprisingly aggressive word even though it means extreme joy. And shadowblackened is not a “real” word, which we have seen McCarthy do before. It could mean that shadow and dark are permanent, which is the effect the man had on the bird. He already ruined it just by touching it. 

Comments (1)

Dylan McKeon (Student 2016)
Dylan McKeon

This part does an excellent job of showing the boy's perspective and how he stops seeing the man as a good guy. The vocabulary used is excellent makes the dreams feel clearer and darker.