Autobiographical Echoes in The Road

This topic contains 30 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  BobbyKnoxville 5 years, 7 months ago.

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  • 31 May 2012 at 6:08 am #1416


    The gifts that writers give the ones they love, eh? Hemingway wrote ‘Cat in the Rain’, as a “tribute to Hadley.” Gee, thanks, hon! Though nowhere near as nasty as ‘Cat’, ‘The Road’ is an ambiguous tribute to his son; to all sons in fact. Hemingway says some interesting things about drawing from real life experiences ( check out the Nick Adams story ‘On Writing’). He always believed that a real life situation could act as catalyst for a story , but after that everything else was made up. I think The Road is a little bit like that.

    As for the ending, I agree with those who see it as elegiac. But what exactly it elegises remains unclear. In my view, the “once there was’ could be prior to the father’s reminiscenses of his childhood – earlier on in the book he remembers a fishing trip with an uncle (echoes of Nick Adams here) where the memory of the idyll is spoiled by “a dead perch lolling up in the clear water. Yellow leaves.” Yellow is not a good colour in modern pastoral ( D. H. Lawrence used this color a lot to signify decay and sickness). The “once there was” could be a never was or, at least’ refers to before European settlement – for that matter, before any kind of human settlement. Yep, there is something primordial about this description. It reminds me a little of how certain movies leave the scene of men and women in conflict to end with a shot of green trees and clear blue sky. A peopleless pastoral.

    31 May 2012 at 9:38 am #1417


    You make a good case and I believe we’re both closer to agreeing on that last paragraph than we may think. Anyway, I’ve got my work cut out for me in revising my essay view of the passage. Thanks for your and Laurie’s insightful challenges.

    31 May 2012 at 6:52 pm #1418


    Bob, the possibility of the echo of the man delivering the boy into the world and McCarthy perhaps being present at the birth of his own son John Francis is interesting. In addition, you write that “for by this time most American men were present at childbirth,” calling to mind a somewhat parallel yet contra behavior McCarthy called attention to in the Vanity Fair interview when he stated “Most people don’t ever see anyone die. It used to be if you grew up in a family you saw everybody die. They died in their home with everyone gathered around.”

    Speaking of autobiographical echoes, and I don’t know if this qualifies or not, but it seems to me that it could: in the NY Times interview with Woodward in 1992, McCarthy casually mentions that most of his friends from the old days in Knoxville are dead. I believe there is similar verbiage in The Road when the boy asks the man about friends from the old days and the man bluntly notes that they are all dead.

    Hope you are on the mend, Bob, and thanks for sharing your article. The endnotes are also really good. I love to read interesting notes, definitely an art in itself.


    01 Jun 2012 at 11:54 am #1427

    Thanks, Peter. Do you happened to have the page no. for that part about all the man’s friends now dead? And what edition are you using? I used the paperback for my essay. The reason I’m asking is that I’d like to add that part to my piece and of course attribute it to you. Dumb me, I didn’t bring my novel copy to WI.

    Bob G.

    01 Jun 2012 at 1:07 pm #1428


    Bob, it’s on page 59 of the 287-page paperback version of The Road, Vintage Books, First Vintage International Edition, 2006, New York. Probably the same one you are using. Here’s the bit I was recalling:

    Did you have any friends?
    Yes. I did.
    Lots of them?
    Do you remember them?
    Yes. I remember them.
    What happened to them?
    They died.
    All of them?
    Yes. All of them. (59)

    01 Jun 2012 at 8:32 pm #1431

    Many thanks, Peter. I’ll try to work this into my revised essay. Still having a devil of a time with the novel’s last paragraph.

    01 Jun 2012 at 10:36 pm #1434

    Thanks for being so gracious with those of us who took up some of your points, especially about that last paragraph, and for giving us the opportunity to wrestle with it along with you.

    >>the last paragraph as a work of art and as a work of beauty is in itself inherently a thing of hope.<<   Nicely put.

    >>it also speaks of mystery which underlies life and therefore underlies loss and death<<   Yes, exactly, to my way of reading, and I think also to Bob’s. Reminds me of the ‘Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time’ in CS Lewis’s Narnia stories. You have become quite the champion of this paragraph which so chafed you earlier.

    Then you say The Road is no Suttree. But who is this first person “I” who appears in the last paragraph speaking of the grim huntsman and slavering, soul-hunting, crazy-eyed hounds oh fly them, after Suttree has, one way or another, left the scene? It doesn’t sound like Suttree. It strikes me as the author stepping in at the end the way you feel he does in The Road. But I don’t seem to mind that.

    “What could a child know of the darkness of God’s plan? Or how flesh is so frail it is hardly more than a dream.” One of my favorite lines from Suttree I just re-stumbled upon, and all of a sudden it sounds like something from The Road…

    02 Jun 2012 at 8:31 am #1442


    Bob: The quote that Peter sent from the paperback (287-page edition) of The Road appears on page 50 of the hardback (241-page edition).

    The Woodward (1992) quote: “‘MOST OF MY FRIENDS FROM those days are dead,’ McCarthy says. We are sitting in a bar in Juarez, discussing “Suttree,” his longest, funniest book, a celebration of the crazies and ne’er-do-wells he knew in Knoxville’s dirty bars and poolrooms” appears on page 36 of the April 19, 1992 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

    02 Jun 2012 at 10:27 am #1445

    Willey and Laurie,

    I want to attribute your points on the last paragraph to you personally in my revised essay. Willey, what is your real full name? Laurie, I assume your name is the same. Right? I’ll also acknowledge Forum pseudonyms.

    Very nice to hear from you. An I want to attribute your part about the Woodward essay.

    To all three of you,

    Thanks much for helping me revise my piece. Three heads are better than my one hoary, feeble one.

    Bob G.

    02 Jun 2012 at 10:44 am #1449

    Yes, that’s my name. Thanks.

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