What Caused the Apocalypse in The Road?

This topic contains 50 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • 23 Sep 2015 at 11:06 pm #7620

    cantona
    Member

    Rick: Thanks for the link to your paper; I enjoyed it immensely. So toot away! The stuff about “the breakdown in family traditions” made me appreciate Tokyo Story all the more. Oh and your “nuclear anxiety strikes as deeply into culture as radiation penetrates to the genome” kind of, sort of returns us to McCarthy.

    Ztutor: There is more than a suggestion that the entire world, and not just North America, has been destroyed by the cataclysm. Would the fall-out from an erupting caldera cover the whole planet? I’m not so sure about this. For this reason, I am more prone to infer that the disaster was caused by global nuclear war. Regardless of this, wouldn’t it be fair to say that apocalyptic anxiety, as registered in literature and film, has become febrile in our nuclear age?


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    24 Sep 2015 at 4:35 pm #7622

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    The narrative gives us the mechanism for the ash: with the onset of nuclear winter, thick layers of particulate in the upper atmosphere block sunlight and shut down all photosynthesis. The ash is a function of a planetary cover of dead trees going rotten and catching fire with every lightning bolt from the statically supercharged air. McCarthy describes the ash as light and swirling with the wind, which is much more characteristic of wood ash than volcanic ejecta, which is a cross between sand and broken glass.

    And for the umpteenth time, the hecatombs of the dead sitting in cars, on doorsteps, or lying in the street where they fell are unmistakable signs of sudden, massive irradiation, as from a nuclear explosion. You could certainly expect scenes like that in Knoxville, so close to the Oak Ridge laboratories which would have been targeted in any shooting thermonuclear war.

    One of the big issues concerning the Yellowstone supervolcanic hotspot that McCarthy doesn’t discuss is that while the supervolcano itself remains stationary in the earth’s mantle, the North American plate keeps shifting in a parabolic curve from northeast to southwestward under pressure from the Pacific Plate along both the slip-strike and subduction areas of their boundary along the California, Oregon and Washington coastline. That pressure lifted the Rocky Mountains and Sierras and has now shifted them over the top of the Yellowstone and Long Valley supervolcanoes, respectively – placing a much thicker, heavier “cap” over them than they had millions of years ago during their prior eruptions. Ergo, they expend far more of their energy melting their ways upwards, doing some damage but not being able to make it to the surface for a big blowout. Simply put, in the time it takes them to approach the surface, the massive mountain ranges of the North American plate slide past them just a bit and in effect they have to start all over again melting upward through a fresh mass of overlying mountainrange.

    Eventually, after several million more years – though our species as a whole probably won’t be around to see it for lots of other reasons, the Republican base ackcherley being the least of them – thinner segments of crust will reposition above the hotspots and then, kaplooie!

    I think the Yellowstone or Long Valley hypothesis is fun to play with but just doesn’t apply to the scenario of The Road.


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    24 Sep 2015 at 5:17 pm #7626

    Glass
    Member

    Great stuff, Rick. See you soon, amigo. I also enjoyed the article shared by Jim in addition to the thoughts on Cold War melancholy in McCarthy.


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    02 Dec 2016 at 5:51 pm #8704

    SooteSeason
    Member

    And for the umpteenth time, the hecatombs of the dead sitting in cars, on doorsteps, or lying in the street where they fell are unmistakable signs of sudden, massive irradiation, as from a nuclear explosion.

    I’m not convinced that this serves as evidence of a nuclear event. If that were the case, these people would have been near enough to the blast to have been killed instantaneously, yet there’s no evidence of any corresponding environmental or structural damage. Rivers are safe to swim in, canned foods and drinks are safe to consume, there’s no concern for residual radiation of any kind. The dead would be lying in the streets in the aftermath of any kind of apocalyptic disaster, and not necessarily as a direct result of the disaster itself. Heart-attacks, starvation, violence, car crashes, slips and falls – I’m reminded of the vignettes in Stephen King’s The Stand, where he exhibits the innumerable mundane ways in which people might find themselves dying in a world in which society has collapsed.


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    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by  SooteSeason.
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    04 Jun 2017 at 10:14 pm #9517

    Bandolier
    Member

    ztutor: This would explain the world of ash and also the seismic activity among other things. I feel like this is what McCarthy settled on had happened in The Road – maybe not while writing it but eventually, especially since he makes a specific mention of it when asked what happened in the book.

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. The journey of the man and the boy is epic. I’ve often wondered what the cause was, and I know there’s a huge controversy surrounding it, but I’ve never bothered to search those arguments. However, I’m torn about this idea of what happened for one reason. How could the caldera in Yellowstone burn the bodies near the ocean towns instantly if it blew? Ideas suggest that the states closest would be covered in 3ft of ash, and the southern states would also get ash, but not nearly the same amount. Thus you would have survivors migrating. There’s a map someone put together who tried to plot the man and the boy’s course to the sea, and it had them travelling through Tennessee and ending their journey at Edisto Island, SC. That seems too far out of range for the Yellowstone caldera to have affected the area as Mcarthy depicted in the book. The way Mcarthy describes the road, tar, melted tires, and bodies shrunken from fire in the cars it would seem have to been some sort of instant blast of massive heat. The idea of the asteroid sounds more plausible in this case. I’m still searching for the answer.

    This article delves into the route.
    http://web.utk.edu/~wmorgan/TR/route.htm

    Here’s the map.
    http://www.ikimap.com/map/road-cormac-mccarthy


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    05 Jun 2017 at 1:31 pm #9520

    Richard L.
    Member

    I’ll stand with Rich Wallach on this, if he’s still standing–he who has had the best look at the Archives.

    However, if I were making a counter-argument, I would start with
    The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History
    by William K. Klingaman

    This books shows how it took very little to cause an abundance of climate change, darken skies with ash, make many pastors swear off liquor altogether. The historical account shows what just one little volcano can do on the other side of the world, and it isn’t pretty.


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    05 Jun 2017 at 2:39 pm #9521

    Bandolier
    Member

    Thanks for the reply. It’s always fun to discuss.

    Richard L.: The historical account shows what just one little volcano can do on the other side of the world, and it isn’t pretty.

    Did this event freeze-frame bodies where they stood (think Pompei), melt roads, and scorch landscape over a 1000 miles away? The last parts of the book where they are walking through the towns near the ocean provides all of this detail to the reader. These areas were caught in a blast radius, and that’s not happening with a caldera erupting, especially one over 1000 miles away. Another detail to factor in is the fact that the Man’s home was safe from the blast, yet if you study the maps it was far closer to the area of the caldera in Yellowstone. Whatever happened clearly had the greatest impact farther south. That much is clearly evident given the descriptions of the book.

    Rick Wallach: I think the Yellowstone or Long Valley hypothesis is fun to play with but just doesn’t apply to the scenario of The Road.

    This is exactly my point. It’s just not plausible given the descriptions of the places in the book. I’m leaning toward the asteroid theory which would, for a short time after it hit at 45k mph, be hotter than the sun.


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    10 Jun 2017 at 3:29 pm #9540

    davor123
    Member

    Hi guys, I’ve found out what number 117 means… But this one is not a guess like many of yours is. It has even something to do with Suttree and his upcoming book… and one Russian author. 🙂
    Could you tell me how much is that information worth?

    I also have some new stuff on Blood Meridian… priceless stuff.


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    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  davor123.
    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  davor123.
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    10 Jun 2017 at 3:57 pm #9544

    Toni
    Member

    ha!

    “Could you tell me how much is that information worth?”

    So this is literary discussion in the Trump era.


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    10 Jun 2017 at 4:05 pm #9545

    davor123
    Member

    Well, if you consider what it cost me to get that kind of information, you would understand my attitude. 🙂


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    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by  davor123.
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