Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I just finished reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and it left a very large impression on me. The story is about a father and his young son walking the road after an apocalypse has destroyed most of humanity and the way we live. Gone are all the simple things that we take for granted every day of our existence like electricity, going to the store and basic civility. The son was born after the event happened (the mother ends up committing suicide) so he doesn't actually know what the world was like before this happened. The pair are walking the road trying to find food and a reason to go on for another day and it really encapsulates the monotony of trying to make it day after day in a world where even living and breathing is a struggle and nothing comes easy.

What really got me about this book is that I have a four year old son and I immediately began to think about what I would do if I were in this situation. Even though they are ostensibly looking for other "good people" the father consistently stays away from any other people on the rare occasions that they come across them and doesn't seem to want to interact with anyone else. The only thing that seems to drive him and keep him going is the fact that he has to take care of his young son who cannot take care of himself. Otherwise it seems like he would have given up long before.

I know we all like to think that in extreme circumstances we would do the right thing and not lose our humanity and try to take care of others but I have to honestly question whether that would happen. More than likely people would quickly revert to an animalistic attitude of taking what they want no matter what it would do to others, even if it meant that by doing so they were condemning those others to sure death. More simply they would resort to killing others by their own hands with no conscience simply because they wanted to exert some form of control over someone else. A few years ago there was a bad ice storm that caused us to lose power for six days and it was a struggle for a lot of people in Tulsa to last that long without all of our daily conveniences so I understand a bit of how quickly things can spiral out of control.

If there was a world changing event would I be any different than the father in the book? I know for a fact that my first priority would the the health and safety of my family but how far and to what extent would I go? What if a friend was starving and I only had food to last for a few days. Would I share with him or keep it all for my family? What if I came across somebody else's food and supplies, would I try to steal them so that my family had plenty and whoever owned them would be left with nothing? By trying to keep my humanity and civility I might condemn my family to death by starvation themselves. Living a life that way might actually not be worth living. It's not always the end result that is the most important thing, sometimes it's how you got there, but then again sometimes the end result is the only important thing. I have no answers to these questions because I've never been put in that situation before. It's a lot to think about, that's the best I can say.

Published by Don Leach

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