The Road


Dystopian Fiction

Key features of Dystopian Fiction:

  • A background story of war, revolution, uprising, overpopulation, natural disaster or some other climatic event which resulted in dramatic changes to society
  • A standard of living among the lower and middle class that is generally poorer than in contemporary society
  • A protagonist who questions society, often feeling intuitively that something is terribly wrong
  • As dystopian literature typically depicts that take place in the future, it often features technology more advanced than that of contemporary society
  • Dystopian fiction typically extrapolates current trends and developments into the future. It is not enough to show people living in an unpleasant society
1 of 10


The Narrative of The Road is mainly structured chronologically by the people, places and things the man and the boy encounter as they make their way south, through the mountains, and towards the sea.

 Why do you think McCarthy has made the passage of time so difficult to grasp?

  • Shows the father and sons disconnected relationship with the time
    • Allows us to empathise with the reader


  • The Gas Station
    • "they came upon a roadside gas station"
    • McCarthy has chosen to include it because it is a possible place that the boy and father could find resources, but they end up finding no resources that they could use. Maybe used as a hiding place from anyone in the area, so that they don't get caught or found.
  • The boat
    • "His uncle turned the boat and shipped the oars"
    • The boat gives them a purpose, a way of getting across the country 
2 of 10


References to time:

  • "the cold of the night"
  • "Nights dark beyond darkness"
  • "An hour later they were on the road"

"The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window…"

  • Flashback
  • Pregnancy is a measure of time

Religious references:

'Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows' (James 1:17)

'Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen' (Timothy 1:17)

'When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last" ' (Revelations 1:17)

3 of 10

Prose Style

How would you describe McCarthy's prose style?


  • Sentence length and structure
  • Choice of vocab/length of words/alliteration
  • Repetition or other structural techniques 

Pages 22-23:

From… "What is it, Papa?"

Until… "Okay, the boy said" 

McCarthy's prose style is characterised by…

  • Occasional long descriptive passages that use unusual phrasing
  • Uncompromising language
  • Greater description in flashbacks/dreams/memories 
4 of 10

Prose Style

McCarthy's (adjective) prose style…

  • Matter of fact
  • Emotionless 


  • Endings/destruction
  • Remnants of fire
  • All that’s left
    • Biblical allusion
    • Hope
    • The boy carries the fire

Pages 107 to 108:

From… He studied the sky

Until… He got up and dragged more wood onto the fire. 

5 of 10

Temporal & Geographical settings

Most important temporal and geographical settings:

  • The road itself
  • The bunker
  • The beach
  • They think its October- winter is coming
  • Post-apocalyptic
  • Childhood home
  • Cannibal house
  • Their house/time before
6 of 10

Description of Setting

  • Bleak
  • Barren
  • Dull
  • Desolate
  • Decaying
  • Crumbling
7 of 10

Past vs Reality

"When we think of the past it’s the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe that it was all like that" (page 40)

  • They want to believe that it is true but in reality what they are presented with isn't true
  • Nostalgia
  • Hope/something to keep living for

"Gymnasium", "Boathouse"

  • Physical buildings still exist that the protagonists remember in a different context
  • Power of memory can keep the past alive.

"Look for anything of colour…"

  • Expecting to see something with colour and something that will remind him of the past, but in reality they find no hope for survival and no hope to cling onto for the future
  • They is no colour which reflects the dull and dark atmosphere.
8 of 10

Analysing a character

What do you write about when analysing a character?

  • Appearance
  • Personality
  • Speech
  • Actions
  • Symbolism
  • Function
  • Relationships
  • Struggles
  • Development
9 of 10

Comparison of Plot

Both the road and the handmaids tale follow the lives of normal humans attempting to survive in a new and strange world. Whereas Their Eyes were watching god and Northanger Abbey are bildungsroman where the protagonists learn how to be true to themselves and their passions within a society that wishes to restrict them.

10 of 10


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all The Road resources »