The graystricken world had gotten to her. The man was not angry with her. He thought it was better to be with the boy himself. Less supplies to gather. One less person to worry about. He slept next to the boy that night for the first time. The man looked at the sky.
Why would you do this to me? Why would you take her? She didn’t mean those things she said. She loved him just as much as I did. You took away her will to survive! You did this!
The boy sleepily rolled over.
What’s wrong Papa?
Nothing. Go back to sleep.
Are you crying?
Go back to sleep. We’re leaving in the morning.
The man and the boy packed up their belongings. The boy looked into the distance, the gray sky seeming deeper and more hopeless than usual.
She’s gone, isn’t she?
Yes she is.
What is she going to do about the fire?
We’ll have to take it for her.
Is it my fault?
No it's not.
She didn’t love me did she?
The man glanced down from the boy’s eyes.
No he finally said.
Do you love me Papa?
I’m going to miss her.
You’re not going to leave me are you?
We all leave each other at some point. The man and boy continued along the road alone with the man doing his best to ignore anything that would remind him of an obsidian flake.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy describes a world in which hopelessness runs rampant, taking the lives of many, most notably the mother of the boy. McCarthy is often criticized for the roles of women in his books, this one being no exception. The woman in The Road is often viewed as the weak, low point of the book. She is cold, one dimensional, and unable to sympathize with the man’s want to survive. The mother was dismissed when she shouldn’t have been.
This scene comes directly after the woman ends her own life. In the novel, this part is relatively unimportant and skipped over entirely. Adding more allowed the characters to express how they were feeling about the situation instead of the situation just happening with no repercussions or emotion. The man screams up to God, a constant theme throughout the novel, and expresses his disbelief that he would take his wife from him, even though it was clear that he and the boy cared deeply for her, as is evident in the parts preceding this added scene.
The boy cares so deeply for his mother, the first thing he is concerned with after learning about her disappearance is the fire they were supposed to carry together. Carrying the fire can mean many different things and is more or less left up to interpretation in the novel, but it means a lot to the boy and the man. It seems to give them purpose to carry on and survive in a world where nothing has any tangible meaning.
In a world with no meaning to be found, a few questions linger in the air. What is the purpose of anything? Why survive? What are you looking to achieve? Unfortunately, the mother thought the answer to these questions, quite simply, was nothing. She felt like nothing mattered, that no matter what they do as a family of survivors, nothing will bring the adrenaline rush of achievement. Gray will stay gray, and it will never get brighter. The boy explores this idea when he asks the man if he is going to leave him to which the man responds, “We all leave each other at some point.” This is direct foreshadowing to the end of the book when the man and the boy part ways.
Graystricken isn’t a real word, but to McCarthy it would’ve been. Grayness, another common word throughout the novel, represents hopelessness. Depression and hopelessness are common in a world where we’re not forced to scavenge for food. Graystricken is describing how hopelessness engulfs something and strikes that feeling into someone, much in the way grayness takes over the world.