Zack Hersh — McCarthy Unabridged

Inserted Scene

(The Road 66) They came to an old iron bridge in the woods where the vanished road had crossed an all but vanished stream. He was starting to cough and he’d hardly the breath to do it with.  He dropped down out of the roadway and into the woods. He turned and stood gasping, trying to listen. He heard nothing. They were but ten minutes from the roadrats. Maybe less. Looming trees around them, leafskinned and twisted. Barren branches like tendrils. Scorched, scaly bark. They moved through the carcass of the woods and the man coughed and coughed and coughed and looked behind him frequently but they werent there. Still no time to catch their breath as they hurried through the shadowy grove until the woods were suddenly blazing bright and tormented with loud snaps.

The man yanked the boy’s arm and pulled him away. An ablaze tree fell in front of them and thundered. In every direction trees crashing down. Some alight with flame. This way! He held the boy’s hand tight and darted them out of the way of falling tree. A growl erupted from the ground where tree connected. They ran but the boy was dragging. Papa! The man coughing and weak and exhausted but somehow with the energy to maneuver around the falling trees. One nearly hit the boy but the man snatched him out of the way. Trees still crashing. Why are they falling Papa? They had nowhere else to go. They continued around the trees through the howls and the ripping and the thuds until it was finally quiet.

The man stopped and looked back at the carnage. Hulking trunks splayed across the ground. Smoke oozing into the gray sky. The man held the boy’s hand. The boy was silent. The man pushed forward. He staggered on another half mile or so and finally dropped to his knees and put the boy down in the ashes and leaves. He wiped the blood from his face and held him. It’s okay. It’s okay.

Rationale — An explanation of the decisions made in the inserted scene

The essential theme that shaped and created my cut scene of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was the theme of changed purposes in the new world. What was not dangerous before have become threats, and threats are everywhere. What was devalued or taken for granted before have become vital and necessities. I wanted a scene that revolved around an example of this, which is why I added a scene in which they are in the woods and trees fall around around them. This connects to this idea of changed purposes by having the man and the boy in a dangerous situation where the danger is trees, something that in the old world was innocuous and not dangerous, even were symbols of life and peace, and have become threats in this new world. My scene serves to foreshadow and reflect all the parts throughout the book that have or have to do with changed purposes and the transfer from the pre-apocalyptic world to the post-apocalyptic world by having it revolve around this theme.

My choice of placement has to do with the characterization and character development that takes place. I wanted to develop the way in which these characters behave in the face of immediate danger — how they act under impulses and under adrenaline. They are always at risk as long as they are on their journey but I wanted to develop this side of their characters in an extreme situation. This is why I chose to insert this scene at the bottom of page 66, which is moments after they escaped the roadrats: they are already in the woods, they are early enough into the journey to not be on or near the brink, and having just escaped the claws of danger adds to the intensity of the situation. Since these are the driving forces of the scene, the themes of fear and survival were also addressed, as they act out of fear and desire to survive under the pressure of this danger.

 The motifs of monstrosity and predators are some of my favorites from the book because they connect to the main question and theme of changed purposes and transfer from the old to the new world. Inanimate objects and elements of the landscape often have a monstrous description (serpentine river, warped trees like skeletons), which shows how the world has changed. It creates predators and danger where there weren’t any, or the potential and fear that there might be when they’re not, as they could be anywhere. As such my scene recurred this motif by deliberately describing the trees and the environment this way (tendrils of branches, the trees growling, etc). They have also just escaped real predators.

Comments (2)

Dylan McKeon (Student 2016)
Dylan McKeon

Your piece does an excellent job of adding tension and excellent imagery to an already intense scene in the book. The part helps touch on the danger they are facing showing the threats they constantly face.