In the novel, The Road by Cormac McCarthy there are many different aspects of good and evil, some of which could be misunderstood due to ones interpretation between the two because of the pressures of society. Specifically asking the questions what distinguishes the two and if human nature plays a role in determining what is the most basic factor good or evil. The novel suggests there is not really any good and evil however the manner in which the character adapts to the new world can be viewed in either a positive or negative manner. The true distinction between good and evil behavior is how people survived in abandoned civilization and how one encountered its hardships.
This is evident in the journey of a father and son, struggling for food, warmth and basic necessities that one needs to live. This situation puts them in a difficult decision making process forcing them to question to what extreme will they go to survive. It is evident that many other characters in the novel other than the father and son have had an extremely difficulty staying surviving in a civilized way. Some characters in the novel have gone to extreme measures to survive, some of which include eating their own prey. The father does not know exactly how to handle these types of problems, due to the face his main goal is to keep both of them alive. This lack of a civilized group is quite evident as the story progresses. There are many examples of this in the text that display the mans lack of regard for another humans life. the novel. Im afraid for that little boy. I know. But hell be all right. We should go get him, papa. We could get him and take him with us. We could take him and we could take the dog. The dog could catch something to eat. We cant. And Id give that little boy half of my food. Stop it we cant. (90). This idea that the father would not help a poor little boy similar to his son is one example of an extreme that one would go to for survival. Sadly, this is one of the lighter extremes portrayed in this novel. One can interpret this as an evil type of behavior and be seen how man would abandon his own people to survive. At this point in time, the man is denying his existence with the civilization by cutting oneself off from any form of human contact. He committing a slow death. He was beginning to think that death was finally upon them and that they should find some place to hide where they would not be found. There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasnt about death. (137). It is clear the man is losing hope and abandoning being with a civilized group. The option of death passing through his mind was his ultimate neglect of not being able to keep a group civilized and finding ways to survive without cannibalizing the others. In one scene of the book the father and son enter a house in which people chained and partially eaten. They are lead to believe that were sacrificed by other human beings. Upon seeing such a vision and unable to help the others, the man and the boy escaped quickly for fear of being other humans next meal. This idea of one human body being consumed for survival is an extreme that one may consider evil but as the novel progresses it becomes clear these people that are participating in truly abandoned civilization.
As time goes on, it becomes a challenge for the boy to remain civilized in the manner that the boy is accustomed but throughout the journey not only does he remain civilized towards other people he remains civilized with himself. The little boy alone has the drive to pursue life rather than death and he makes this very clear and evident to his father. The little boy wants to help others and is willing to adapt and find new ways to live civilized in his new environment. He does not want to go eat others nor does he consistently complain throughout the journey. There was an incident in which the boy and the man come across another man who was struck by lightening. The boy wants to help yet the man says there is nothing they can do. It is also important to remember a comment that the man made early on in the novel. You forget some things, dont you? Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget. (11) The idea of remembering good and bad knowledge takes a large role in the idea of the little boy staying civilized. One can assume that growing up in his much younger years he was instilled with good knowledge. He being so young it can be assumed he is rather clueless and wants to adapt to the new environment rather than rejecting the idea of change. The author finally gives the reader an answer to the question to what extreme will the father and son go to survive. We wouldnt eat anybody, would we? No. of course not. Even if were starving? Were 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. Because were the good guys. Yes. (136) The little boy is growing up in an environment were it is common to eat others as food to survive. He is unsure if his father would have them go to the extreme of eating others. It can now be said that the father and son are civilized people because they will not go to the extreme of eating others. The father does do uncivilized things however he is a civilized person making him good rather than evil.
In this novel good and evil does not exist however uncivilized and civilized behavior does. In this story a man and a boy, father and son, go on a journey together for across a wretched country after the post apocalypse landscape. Plants do not grow. Humanity consists largely of groups of cannibals and refugee-travelers who scavenge for food. Remaining civilized through out the journey is difficult although the father and son have most certainly made their efforts to remain civilized.