The Road as Christian Parable

Joseph Kugelmass reads McCarthy’s The Road as a Christian parable.

The Road is a Christian parable; that is its most important quality, and its downfall.

I don’t read this in the novel.

In The Road we slowly acquire the fear that the boy will have to face the world alone (I hate to say it but this is how I wanted he novel to end). This fear is everpresent in the father. The gulf between the father is not a rejection of “kinship” but a simple misunderstanding. The father’s fear is embodied in the world’s imagery. It’s a novel about vulnerability. Every parent’s nightmare.

5 thoughts on “The Road as Christian Parable

  1. Joseph Kugelmass


    In the conversations that are developing both at my blog and the Valve, a key issue is the ending. My view of the book was, naturally, influenced by that fairy-tale conclusion, but I’m the first to agree that McCarthy might have done better with a darker coda.

  2. Steve Post author

    I seriously wonder about the ending and thought that the novel went out of joint at the conclusion.

    I’ve always thought McCarthy had an eye for endings, much like Garcia-Marquez or Borges, and perhaps he still does and I’m missing something. I myself wouldn’t automatically dismiss the parable reading and would like to see more of he implications of such a reading.

  3. gibb

    While I would never dismiss McCarthy’s story as only parable, it most certainly does involve the moral issue of how far we will go for personal survival, for those we love, and under what circumstances does ethical behavior change meaning. These questions suggest history and both natural circumstances and those brought about by mankind. I took the ending, the very last paragraph, as nature existing prior to mankind and surviving by adapting itself to change, even that which is man-made. The mapping, or patterns on the backs of the fish are blueprints of survival for earth that will transcend man’s best efforts to decipher or even destroy the planet, the universe, ourselves.

    Then too, the story is about a man and his son. Perhaps the boy will retain the memory of his father, of humanity, just as the fish holds the memory of all other life.

    Or maybe McCarthy just liked the way the words played out.

  4. gibb

    Another thought on ending: There could be the possibility that the boy would stumble into a place where he would be truly alone, but this is unlikely based on the thread of story where McCarthy does have random crossing of paths. While the story may hold a glimmer of hope for him in meeting up with ‘good’ people, what’s to say that this continues? I don’t know about other readers, but I didn’t breath relief at a happy ending for the boy and for humanity; just for his temporary safety and the fact that McCarthy chose to end the tale before the kid got killed so I didn’t have to read that part.

  5. Josh

    I cannot seem to get ahold of this book. The library copies throughout Bangor have been off the shelf for months due to the constant waiting list; and I have a thing about dropping more than $5 on unfamiliar literary fiction (especially of the 20th century variety).

    Thus I am forced to read summaries and reviews of the book (for now) so I can participate a little in this discussion. From what I have pieced together of the novel, I can see where the book could work as Christian parable.

    The ending uses imagery that speaks strongly of the relationship of the Christian to Christ/God and His Church. One interpretation is that the father and boy could be the two sides of the same person, the “old Adam” and the “new Adam” that is consistently used metaphorically in Paul’s epistles; that the journey is towards water is significant since Baptism is necessary in the transformation from one “Adam” to the other.

    The story clearly reads as one of faith and hope, and the role children play in promulgating these traits within our society. The book seems also to condemn the boy’s family (or at least the mother). Using the God/Church imagery, this too is Christian in that God is always a better Father than we ever can be to our children; the temptations and sinful nature of our flesh makes it so. But where others would have wounded pride in this knowledge, Christians take strength.

    Perhaps the used book store in town has a copy by now. I would definitely like to read this work.

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