The Road Critical Essay

The Road Critical Essay-40
(2006), a father and his son “push down the road a battered shopping cart, containing their bare provisions, on a thoroughly consumed earth” (Seltzer 189).Despite the fact that the novel seems to be situated in an indistinct no-man’s-land, marked by a curious absence of time and history, this essay argues that it is indeed worthwhile to historicize .Wearing masks and goggles, sitting in their rags by the side of the road like ruined aviators. For instance, while it might superficially make sense to identify the novel’s description of so many of its characters along the lines of Giorgio Agamben’s conception of there obviously is no sovereign power anymore.

By placing the novel in the context of the new capitalism, the article explores the ways in which Mc Carthy’s treatment of mobility deviates from previous American road narratives, which typically celebrate the pleasures and possibilities of movement and flight.

Concentrating on the novel’s dystopian “catastrophism,” the essay will further investigate its relation to temporality, history, and the future.

And this, I would argue, is not substantially contradicted by the novel’s mythical ending with its vague messianic allusions and the fact that, after the death of his father, the son is taken in by a family with seemingly good intentions.5 While the novel surely reflects on the state of grace, human kindness, and compassion against the backdrop of a wholly catastrophic and hostile environment, there is no evidence anywhere in the book that the sheer existence of such qualities—the survival of people, that is, who continue “to carry the fire” (Mc Carthy 298)—gives reason to hope for any positive change at large.6 Instead, the glimmers of goodness one encounters in are nothing more than just that: rare instances of human behavior in a setting in which the only thing to effectively hope for is the provisional postponement of death.

And this, one can even detect in the survivalist discourse of the father, whose strong sense of endurance is constantly accompanied by thoughts about the inescapability of death and total extinction.

is read here as an example of what, in allusion to Lionel Trilling, might be referred to as the “neoliberal imagination.”1 This does not mean, however, that I understand Mc Carthy as a neoliberal writer, nor that I understand primarily as a neoliberal novel.

Indeed, throughout my essay the term “neoliberalism” is not so much used as a well-defined political ideology, but rather designates what a number of economic theorists and political scientists have termed a .2 In the United States, this mode of regulation started to take hold in the late 1970s, becoming ever more dominant under the Reagan presidency in the early 1980s.3 And although the neoliberal model is currently undergoing a severe crisis, it is nevertheless safe to say that it continues to exist today.4 My argument, then, is not that Along these lines, the essay will focus on two aspects in particular.

Firstly, it will highlight the way in which the novel engages with the theme of mobility and utilizes the classic road motif, which has a long and distinct history in American literary discourse.

Secondly, it will discuss the peculiar temporality (and seeming “worldlessness”) of the novel’s post-apoc­alyptic setting, which is expressed, among other things, in the inability to think and imagine a genuine future.

In his novel from 2006, Cormac Mc Carthy explicitly picks up on the road motif, but does so in a totally different way and context.

In the novel’s post-apocalyptic setting, mobility has lost all implications of transgression, discovery, and the pleasures of flight, manifesting itself instead as a means of sheer survival.


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