McCarthy Unabridged: The Road, Page 78

In a world where I wrote The Road instead of Cormac McCarthy, the following scene would have been included:

The boy played in the creek as the man got the fire started. The red ash joined the grey, making the ashfall denser. This was safe ash, warmth. The boy stumbled out of the water, shivering. The man dried him off with a blanket and put it besides the fire as the boy crawled over.


What is it?

It’s time for me to sleep?

Yes, it’s time for you to sleep.

Can you tell me a story first?

I’ll tell you a story first.

Thank you Papa.

What kind of story do you want to hear.

One with colors.

The man sat for a minute and thought. Color wasn’t a concern, not something to think about. The light from the flames dusted a can of peas.

Have I ever told you the story of the green giant?


Alright. The green giant lived in a bright field of yellow corn. The sun glowed orange from the clear, blue sky. One day, as the giant was sleeping, he heard a cry from a tree. Up in the tree, sat a pink cat. “Are you alright?” the giant asked. “No, I’m stuck. Will you help me down?” The giant lifted the cat out of the tree. “There you are friend.” The cat flashed the giant a white smile. The two lived their days out together.



If we saw someone stuck, would we help them?

I told you a story. Now sleep.

Would we?

No, the man thought.


Below you will find the thoughts and rationale behind the decisions and concepts that went into the scene.

While reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I was struck by the discussion the man and boy have about stories. The man makes a comment about how he has run out of happy stories. I decided to have my piece depict a scene where the man tells the boy a story. A story, and a happy one at that, is a way for the man to show that he is more than his steely exterior. The boy allows him to show this inner warmth. I focused on showing this in the man’s characterization. This falls in line with a recurrent theme throughout the book, a focus on the bond between this man and his son, how warmth is created in a world of complete emotional coldness. I structured this scene around McCarthy’s use of cold, clear dialogue. This motif of his creates an almost unnerving contrast between the story and the scene itself. I also featured dialogue to show that this is where the boy gets his information, where he learns about the world.

However warm and caring these elements of the scene are, this is still The Road. And the road is a very dark place, where survival is the only true necessity. I used this scene to foreshadow the many moments when the man would be put into a situation that involved fleeing from people in need. The man is, in some ways, a hypocrite. He instills these survival methods and mindsets into the boy through this concept of good vs evil. The story I have the man tell represents the good that he wants the boy to see in the world, but I make sure to show that the man is not actually planning to focus on that. This is supported by my placement of the scene. It occurs shortly before the boy encounters the other little boy in the city, and, even more importantly, the bunker of human meat. These are two events that defy the values that the man is trying to instill in the boy. The Road has us ponder what truly makes someone good.

The scene works on three levels. The innermost level is that of the boy and the story, where the boy is both warmed by the fire and the affection that his father gives him. The middle level has to do with the man’s questionable morality. And the outermost level is that of the McCarthy-en atmosphere. It is dark, a fire is the only source of light, and the pair are surrounded by a constant “ashfall”, an oppressive, warped version of the rain we take for granted. These levels are what, when combined, form The Road.

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