The Road - Theme of Isolation

Detalied Revision on the Theme of Isolation in 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy.

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  • Created on: 10-12-12 20:01
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SYMBOLISM: Isolation is portrayed with symbolic imagery, the most important being the
Flare Pistol. The flare pistol `...broke somewhere out over the water in a clouded light
and hung there', so we can infer from the imagery that not only is there isolation from
people; but also from God. From the dialogue in which The Boy questions whether God
could see the flare, McCarthy makes it clear that he wants the audience to feel both
tragedy (nothing is more sympathetic than a flare of hope being shot, when there isn't
even hope anyone will see it let alone help them) and Hope. ( Because the Boy has
realised whom God is, even though he is born into a destroyed world) McCarthy makes
the audience feel like even God has isolated the world, and left it to its own indecent
DESCRIPTIONS: McCarthy also portrays isolation just within his recurring descriptions of
darkness, silence, death and nothingness. (all associated with the end of life) `There was
nothing.' ­ Page 8: this quote, as it is by itself in a sentence, emphasises the nothingness
in the world they live in, and nothingness is reflective of isolation. McCarthy makes the
audience feel, every human (except the protagonists) and every object, is just a shape
and an empty shell.
REPITITION: Repetition has been used within `The Road' to emphasise the darkness; like
the protagonists are in a morbid circle and will only see darkness for the rest of the
journey. McCarthy also uses the isolation of dialogue, especially in the word `Okay' to
emphasise the distance in which the protagonists are from being `Okay.' The lack of
conversation and punctuation shows abandonment from the lack of social conversation to
have, and the word `Okay' itself is representative that nothing is a certain Yes or No, as
their life is unpredictable.
ALIENATION: McCarthy often alienates the Man as he has experienced a life before the
post-apocalyptic one. He does this in flashbacks and versions of reality before, to show the
isolation the man has from not only his previous life, but from the world and sometimes his
STRUCTURE: The fact that there are no chapters within the whole novel is purposely
representative of the protagonists having no life planned out for them to record in
chapters. Because the characters are so isolated, like the structure itself, it emphasises
that there is literally no future planned out from God, and there is no hope either.
Isolated to the extremes; even nature seems like it is waiting for the protagonists to give
up and so is death itself. The lack of punctuation is actually powerful in emphasises
sentences of isolation as they are usually short sentences that draw the reader in. `...he
picked up one of the heavy leaves and crushed it in his hand to powder and let the
powder sift through his fingers,' ­ Page 209: emphasises how this is what God may have
done, and how the world has now been crushed to isolated grains of ash and that is all
that is left. The structure in general and of dialogue in particular, is unpredictable and
unconnected just like the setting of the novel and the protagonists' lives.
`Turns out the light is gone. Look around you. Ever is a long time. But the boy knew
what he knew. That ever is no time at all.' ­ McCarthy takes the idea of isolation into
believing in obliteration. He thinks that no one will be left at all and even ideas of things

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`Will you tell him goodbye? (The Man) No. I will not.' (The Woman) ­ This emphasises
how things and emotions are disappearing without even a goodbye, and is strong in
showing isolation because The Boy's mother has just left him and his father to fend for
`Well, I don't think we're likely to meet any good guys on the road (The Man) We're
on the Road.…read more



A detailed look at isolation in the poem that thoroughly explores the theme; consider how this theme could be linked to other themes in the poem.

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