Pin It I watched the film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road last night, Truitt snoozing docilely in my lap and the kids playing Battleship in the other room. I'd read the book several years ago, working my way through it fits and starts, unsettled by the sadness of its story and message. It's one of those works, though, that deserves a second, closer look. There is so much there in way of character and symbol, image and theme.
The film version was no less beautifully "written" than the text, the actors and cinematography all poignant words on the screen. There was this one scene that tugged at me, a flashback where the protagonist recalls a pivotal conversation with his wife. In it, she raises the question of survival in their post-apocalyptical world. They live in a world where humanity is all but non-existent, and existence itself is marked by constant struggle for food, shelter, and protection from bands of cannibals. As a mother, she comments that the day their son was born was both the best and worst day of her life. She means to end her life as soon as she has the opportunity.
"It is not enough," she tells her husband, "to just survive." Unspoken is her desire to live fully, and see her son live as well.
Later, as they make their way through a barely recognizable ash-strewn world toward more southerly climes, the father pauses for a brief stroll through memory lane in his old childhood home. While his son looks on in confusion, he touches a doorframe that bears the faint measurements of a growing boy. He reveals the holes in the mantle where stockings once hung. He traces the pattern of a sofa cushion lovingly. His son,though, does not and cannot understand his attachment to these things. He has never known this childhood. His own has been filled with tramping through a barren world, scavenging for meals, flinching from human contact. He does not know what it means to have holidays, and relationships, and comforts.
He knows how to survive. But is he truly living?
It's hard to envision a world such as this. As a mother, I hate to think of a time when my children would need to be consumed with survival over living. There's a Suzy Sunshine part of me that holds on to a faith in the greater good of the human race...I have to believe that we wouldn't simply give way to that tiny terrible ego that's in us all, but would instead take whatever circumstances we were dealt and turn survival into living.