The Road Critical Essay

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as an actual attack on the cultural coordinates of the new capitalism, because, in another sense, the novel seems to thoroughly remain within the confines of the neoliberal imagination. (22-23) Among other things, what is striking about this passage is how the Coke, as maybe the last of its kind, is elevated here from an everyday product of mass consumer culture to a singular item, a rare artifact surrounded by a mystical aura.

Along these lines, I now seek to discuss to what extent A useful way of approaching this theme would be through the conceptual lens of Mark Fisher’s notion of capitalist realism. It’s because I wont ever get to drink another one, isnt it? On the one hand, one can thus detect “a gesture of nostalgic reminiscence” (Donnelly 70) here, or even more so, the fetishization of an iconic consumer item.

And this, I would argue, is not substantially contradicted by the novel’s mythical ending with its vague messianic allusions and the fact that, after the death of his father, the son is taken in by a family with seemingly good intentions.5 While the novel surely reflects on the state of grace, human kindness, and compassion against the backdrop of a wholly catastrophic and hostile environment, there is no evidence anywhere in the book that the sheer existence of such qualities—the survival of people, that is, who continue “to carry the fire” (Mc Carthy 298)—gives reason to hope for any positive change at large.6 Instead, the glimmers of goodness one encounters in are nothing more than just that: rare instances of human behavior in a setting in which the only thing to effectively hope for is the provisional postponement of death.

And this, one can even detect in the survivalist discourse of the father, whose strong sense of endurance is constantly accompanied by thoughts about the inescapability of death and total extinction.

People on both ends of the spectrum, however, are marked by a certain “becoming-animal” (Deleuze and Guattari 257), that is, a mode of existence in which the classic opposition between nature and culture has largely disappeared.

Certainly, with respect to the boy’s and his father’s self-identification as those who “carry the fire,” there is a desire to maintain certain “forms” and “ceremonies” that might help to at least uphold the of civilized life9—a task, however, which becomes increasingly difficult to accomplish, for, as the narrator explains, the “names of things [are] slowly following those things into oblivion” (Mc Carthy 93).that creates the precarious status of refugees on the move; it is rather the earth itself, which seems to be in a state of complete decay, having lost most of its resources and potentials.As there is hardly any fertile vegetation left, the only way to survive is either to become a cannibal, or, like the man and his son, live mostly of canned goods, the rare remains of the pre-catastrophic era.In his novel from 2006, Cormac Mc Carthy explicitly picks up on the road motif, but does so in a totally different way and context.In the novel’s post-apocalyptic setting, mobility has lost all implications of transgression, discovery, and the pleasures of flight, manifesting itself instead as a means of sheer survival.At one point in the novel, the reader is told that some “part of him always wished it to be over” (163).Despite his survivalist ethos, then, the father seems to be in secret agreement with his dead wife, who, before committing suicide, explained: “We’re not survivors. contradicts the conventional idealization of the road motif, one can see the novel as an engagement with the more sinister side of mobility, portraying types of imposed or forced movement rather than the “joy rides” (Kerouac 13) and ecstatic explorations in Kerouac’s novel or Whitman’s blissful wanderings on the open road.This, as various authors have noted, sets Mc Carthy’s novel in relation to contemporary developments such as the refugee crisis.According to a recent estimation of the UNHCR, more than 65 million people worldwide are currently on the move, most often fleeing war, violence, poverty, political oppression, or the general hopelessness present in the countries of their origin.7 This being the highest number ever in the history of mankind, it certainly makes sense to read against this backdrop, thereby ascribing it with current political significance.By placing the novel in the context of the new capitalism, the article explores the ways in which Mc Carthy’s treatment of mobility deviates from previous American road narratives, which typically celebrate the pleasures and possibilities of movement and flight.Concentrating on the novel’s dystopian “catastrophism,” the essay will further investigate its relation to temporality, history, and the future.


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