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Theme Of Isolation In The Lonely Road Research Paper

I Walk This Lonely Road “On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world” (McCarthy 32). Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, follows a father and son throughout their journey in a new world in which they hope to survive. McCarthy uses imagery, God, the characters themselves, and the structure of the novel to implement the theme of isolation in The Road. Imagery, a strong presence in The Road, assists in the creation of the theme. The novel is filled with descriptive images of the “ashen scabland” (15) the world has become.

The land is “gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes” (177). McCarthy’s use of these images aids in the understanding of how isolated this world has become. The descriptions used in the novel create a feeling of isolation because it allows the readers to feel as if they are a part of the new world full of ash and ruin. According to “The New York Times”, “The Road’ keeps pace with the most enterprising doomsayers as death and desperation manifest themselves on every page” (Maslin).

The animals in this world all seem to be dead, except for the mention of a dog, and the plants are lifeless. Even the people in this new world seem bereft of life. They are described as “Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland” (McCarthy 28). The people have lost their beliefs and have now become shells of who they once were. Images of the people who have lost their old selves and the world they now live in, a world full of cold, ash, and silence, create a feeling of isolation. Does God exist in this new world?

This new world is described as “barren, silent, and godless” (4). God is not present for the people anymore. Ely, the man that the father and son shared their food with, says that he is past believing in gods and that there is no God in this current world (171). God, the people who speak in favor of him, and the old world are all gone and some people are left wondering if God exists anymore. For example, the father in the novel doesn’t know if God abandoned them all and begins to wonder if God is there pleading, “Are you there? he whispered…

Damn you eternally have you a soul? [sic]” (11). The father doesn’t know if God deserted them or if God is there but looks upon the world’s plight with apathetic indifference. People in the old world were used to relying on the idea that God is there for everyone. People believed that God would always be present during their time of greatest need. However, in this new world, that belief and faith disappeared into the void of despair that swallows the land. The characters help create isolation in The Road. Take, for example, the mother in the novel.

The mother is similar to the man in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. Frost’s poem is about a man who has to decide between two roads in the woods. The man chose a road and saved the second for another day, but knew that he probably wouldn’t come back. The road chosen was the one less people traveled on “and that has made all the difference” (Frost I. 20). This concept can be applied to the boy’s mother in the story because the mother has a choice between life and death, between the terrifying, new world and nothingness.

The mother chooses “the one less traveled by” (Frost I. 9). When everyone is fighting for survival, the mother chooses the path fewer people took, which is suicide. Also, similar to the man in the poem, there is no coming back and her choice has made a great difference because her life has completely changed: she is dead without her child and husband. Another character that is isolated in the novel is the father. Critic Alan Warner states, “His [McCarthy’s] central character can adopt a universal belligerence and misanthropy. In this damnation, rightly so, everyone, finally, is the enemy” (Warner).

The father trusts no one, just like Ely, and without trust there is no communication with others, no feeling of companionship, only isolation. The son is also a character who lives isolated from human beings. The son is more trusting than his father, yet he isn’t allowed to talk to others because his father says it is not safe. Therefore, the son is just as isolated as the father. His father is the only person the boy has in his life and even that companionship doesn’t last forever because the father dies. The father’s death leaves the boy on his own.

The boy relies on his father for everything: for food, for clothing, and for survival. The boy told his father, “You said you wouldnt ever leave me [sic]” (McCarthy 279), but that is a promise that the man cannot keep and now the boy is orphaned, left to remember the lessons his father taught him about not trusting others easily. McCarthy also uses the structure of the novel to create the theme of isolation. Throughout the novel, McCarthy uses no quotation marks even though his characters talk to each other. For example, “It’s okay, the man said.

All the trees in the world are going to fall sooner or later. But not on us. How do you know? I just know” (35). The absence of these quotation marks makes it seem as if the characters aren’t truly talking to one another. Thus, the non-appearance of quotation marks enhances the feeling of silence and highlights the isolation taking place in the novel. Furthermore, the characters in the novel are nameless. Nameless characters allow readers to imagine anyone being the characters, even themselves. However, the characters lack of names can also be taken as the characters not wanting to be known by others.

This is exhibited when Ely says his name is truly not Ely and that he cannot say his true name because he can’t trust anyone to do something with it. Ely states that without a real name no one can talk about him and “in times like these the less said the better” (171). Without names the characters show isolation because they don’t trust others with their true names and their true selves. In The Road McCarthy creates a new world in which silence follows the characters throughout their journey on the road. He creates a world where death and ruin are present in every page and faith in God is fading.

McCarthy’s world is a place where characters are nameless and their trust in humanity is obliterated. These characters walk down the road with other people, yet they couldn’t have been more isolated and lonely. There are conversations that occur on this road, however, silence couldn’t be more deafening. There are no birds chirping, cars rumbling, nor is there the sound of excited children and laughter. The old world is dead and the new world is shrouded in silence. In this silence the theme of isolation emerges and is strengthened through the imagery, God, characters, and structure of the novel.

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