The Road Ahead

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Oh, I've been wanting to do an illustration about any McCarthy novel for a while now. But it has been a meandering road, and I've only just gotten to it.

That pun is the only lighthearted thing that will be ever be associated with this book. Be forewarned.

The Road is a gripping, haunting post-apocalyptic story about survival, humanity and the lack thereof.

To start off the novel, the main character learns that America has just been nuked in various places. He immediately goes fill his bathtub up with water. That gave me an indication of what lay ahead. Without rules and something in place to keep everything in check, things basically go nuts.

When most of the crops fail, when all the energy goes out, when food goes scarce, what will become of society? This book paints a pretty...bleak picture, but you can pretty much believe it. Heck, I believed it instantly after that bathtub was filled with water, turning it into a large canteen.

I'm trying to give you the impression that this book is a brutal account of a man and his young son trying to make their way south to the Gulf of Mexico while traversing a dead, bleak, dismal and dangerous land. It is always cold in this world, because the sun is blotted out. Very cold. You have to scrounge for whatever food you need to get by on (I remember one part when they find shriveled, pathetic apples, and they are SO relieved and revived). Shoes are very important, and you should worry about their condition. People are dangerous because, well, they might be cannibals. There are several scenes and situations which push this upon the reader.

But what makes this book, and Cormac McCarthy, so genius is that it's not REALLY about all that bad stuff. It's about digging through it and finding the hope and humanity. The dialogue (all done with no quotation marks) between father and son is startlingly straightforward and heartfelt. Here's a sample that takes place right before the section that my illustration is from:

(son speaks first, then father, then you can follow from there)

We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we're the good guys.

You read this book and you sigh relief along when the characters when they find respite from their environment. They find food one day, and you smile because they smile. In the illustration above, they by chance happen upon an underground bunker/storeroom behind some abandoned house. And it's like heaven. And it is heartbreaking when they have to leave it to continue on. Because, as the father says, everyone else is looking for the same thing, and it wouldn't be good to be caught unawares there.

Upon finding the bunker, they are cautious about opening it. When the father finds that it is chock-full of supplies and empty of hazards, he can barely contain himself. And when he tells the boy to come on down, the boy hesitates. Which is the moment I tried to capture. I can picture him just looking around and checking to make sure no one is watching them. They had just come from a rather traumatic encounter in another house...


This is probably one of the "happier" moments in the novel. I've also read Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, both of which have that same wonderfully dark, dangerous feel to them. Bad things happen. Good things happen. Really great stuff. Must have more.


MamaLern said...

VERY neat image! The synopsis is great too-
Also, I'm starting to notice a pattern of depressing works lately...

Burt said...

On the bright side, I don't think novels can get more depressing than 1984. But I'll have to look through my library to find a nice, cheery book from which to booksketch!

Tim said...

This post has effectively changed the course of my life. I now want to:

1. Read this book and ...
2. Become good at art.

Brandi said...

I must read this book...
I will have to plan a trip to Barnes and Noble soon...

G. said...

Is it watercolor ? Or maybe sepia ink. Whatever, it's beautiful. I like this one better than the road warrior, too colorfull to me.
This book was a tough experience for me but it was great and i made some booksketches too. If you're eager to see them (!), go there :