Death and destruction are the epitome of a doomed world. Everything is destroyed and murders march the streets at night. Hell on earth is a gentle description. Cormac McCarthy's speculation of the end of the world, however, ensures that evil is not victorious. The biblical allusions Cormac McCarthy addresses in The Road illuminate a sense of hope in a bleak, empty world.
Despite a grim first impression, the repetitive imagery of ash represents hope according to symbolism found in the Bible. Ash becomes a natural setting, described throughout the whole book, with a seemingly melancholy mood. McCarthy introduces ash within the first pages: “Everything paling away into the murk. The soft ash blowing in loose swirls over the blacktop” (McCarthy 4). Normally, the connotations of ash create a dark gloomy atmosphere. McCarthy's intentional diction in this passage, however, create an opposing mood. The phrases “soft ash” and “loose swirls” create a relaxed image, allowing the ash to be interpreted in a hopeful manner. This hopefulness is enforced by the symbolism of ash in the Bible. After Adam and Eve committed the first sin, God warns them of his power, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). First of all, this verse exemplifies the great power of God. He created the complex human body out of mere dust. In relation to The Road, the ash represents the presence of a great power. This brings hope to the father and the son, knowing that the ability to create something out of the ash exists.
Similarly, the concept of fire found throughout the novel, although serving as a representation of destruction, sheds light on the underlying theme of hope. We are led to believe, through various descriptions, that the world was destroyed by a large meteorite, leaving the whole world to burn down in flames (Schaub). McCarthy brings this image to reality as the father and the son walk through a town where the corpses are melted into the tar (McCarthy 190). Despite these horrifying images, the pair rely on the concept of fire to keep them going. The phrase “carrying the fire” becomes a cliché for the father and the son, relating it to a prayer (Kunsa). This repetitive phrase gives them purpose and hope in their journey (Rambo). In addition, the image of fire represents a concept of spirit that the son is able to understand (Schaub). By believing in the goodness of fire, the son can believe in a spirit greater than himself, which without fire it would difficult to find. Just as the fire acts as a spiritual guide in The Road, it was also used as a guide in a biblical passage. After the escape from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites through the desert, day and night. During the night, God provided a pillar of fire for guidance and protection (Exodus 21). This brings hope to the novel, because God is guiding the father and the son, through the concept of fire, to a better ending.
An obvious source of hope throughout the entire novel is revealed...