The Conformity of Cannibalism
As humans, people have always held the morals of society and humanity over the common sadistic nature of animals and vermin. But, when the world is struck with Cormac McCarthy’s apocalypse in The Road, society is faced with the option of upholding social morality, or sinking to the level of callous cannibals for survival. In the ashen and putrid modern world, morals have disintegrated with society as resorting to cannibalism for a food source has become the norm. The diminishing flame of humanity is only kept alive by the tender kindling from the boy, as his saintly personality keeps “the fire” from extinguishing (129). The boy walks through the post- apocalyptic world carrying ‘the fire’ because of his compassionate nature; therefore, he is an alien and outsider to the savage cannibalism of society.
The boy’s sense of moralities makes him a foreigner and sets him outside the conformity of inhumanity. When the boy and the man come across Ely on the road; the boy, ignoring his father’s protests, convinces the man to give Ely some of their precious food. Even when food sources are dwindling and ever can or withered apple someone can get their hands on is a source of life. Despite this fact the boy still gives Ely some food, which, at first glance, thought the boy was “an angel” of humanity (172). Ely is surprised by the boy’s compassion; stating that he has not “seen a fire in a long time” in direct reference to both the physical fire and the fire of ethical values from a forgotten society that the boy carries (172). The boy’s unconscious efforts to keep the dwindling flame alive exemplify his pure morals.
The boy carries the diminishing fire of humanity as he is determined to retain ancient morals and never resort to cannibalism. While on the brink of starvation, the boy asks his father in distress: “We wouldn’t ever eat anybody, would we?” (128). The father, in reply, says that they would never, presenting to the reader how the boy and the father choose the unsullied values of humanity instead of cannibalism. No matter the conditions of the situation, the boy and the father never steal from the living. The boy even makes it a point to “thank the people… who gave [them]” all the food and weren’t able to utilize it themselves (145). The virtuous character of the boy sets him more apart from the remnants of society in both his actions and his appearance.
The boy is the only known pure character throughout the entirety of the book, which makes him an outsider in the modern world. After restating that the boy and the man are carrying ‘the fire,’ McCarthy describes the boy as “an alien” because he is always reassuring that they are living by the moral standards of a forgotten humanity (129). Much like the boy’s pristine and taintless morals, his physical appearance also sets him outside execrable characteristics of the modern human being. His “translucent” skin gleaming light, as his “golden hair” stands out as beautiful in the anemic world of grays and black (129, 152). The fire and withering hopes of humanity, the boy tirelessly maintains at all costs as, even in a world riddled with corruption the boy strives to put others before himself.
It really takes a few fires and a shortage of food to turn a civilized community into a savage band of vermin. Society went from its highest point of success to the survival of the fittest, receding back into the melancholy cave of lost knowledge and hopeless culture. CEOs and beggars become vile varmint as they crouch to the ground, lips stained with the festering flesh of their families. Recoiling and shrinking away from the faint illumination of morality, coruscating from the flickering flame of humanity. Endlessly, the boy tends to the ebbing fire as he carries the remnants of human nature through the murky blackness of the modern world.
McCarth, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. Print.
P.S: I figured you guys should see one of the many essays that have been consuming my time recently :). I just cranked this one out, it's a little rough around the edges I know, everything is according to MLA standards. Also, on the last paragraph I was just like "screw it!" I've always wanted to write a short story instead of an essay for my English teacher, but I can't do the entire essay a short story for fear I would fail. So I did this instead. Let me know what you think of it and I can change it to something more anyalitical if necessary. Thanks for reading!