The Road Study Guide
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  • 1. THE ROAD STUDY GUIDETerm 1 2012 "By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp." Described as the “American against the lawless bands master”, Cormac McCarthy The Road is a that stalk the road, the is one of the world’s greatest clothes they are wearing, a living novelists. His style is frightening, cart of scavenged food--and characterised by his profound tale that each other.” philosophical pessimism, drags us into places thin plots, reductive The Road is the profoundly sentences and restrained we dont want to go, moving story of a journey. It vocabulary. forces us to think boldly imagines a future in about questions we which no hope remains, but “Cormac McCarthy’s tenth dont want to ask. in which the father and his novel, The Road, is his most son, "each the others world harrowing yet deeply Ron Charles, entire," are sustained The Washington Post personal work. Some by love. Awesome in the unnamed catastrophe has totality of its vision, it is an scourged the world to a unflinching meditation on the burnt-out cinder, inhabited by “A father and his son walk worst and the best that we the last remnants of alone through burned are capable of: ultimate humankind. The sky is America. Nothing moves in destructiveness, desperate perpetually shrouded by dust the ravaged landscape save tenacity, and the tenderness and toxic particulates; the the ash on the wind. It is cold that keeps two people alive in seasons are merely varied enough to crack stones, and the face of total devastation. intensities of cold and when the snow falls it is The novel was awarded the dampness. Bands of gray. The sky is dark. Their 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction cannibals roam the roads destination is the coast, and the James Tait Black and inhabit what few although they dont know Memorial Prize for Fiction in dwellings remain intact in the what, if anything, awaits them 2006. Sources: woods.” there. They have nothing; just http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/works/ theroad.htm, http://www.randomhouse.com/ a pistol to defend themselves kvpa/cormacmccarthy/ 1
  • 2. TipsTHE ROAD Study Guide to them in the narrative. 2) Where are the man and “Cormac the boy going? Why? The following questions are 3) “Heʼd pulled away his McCarthys intended to help you develop mask in the night...” (5) What The Road, a a detailed and critical kind of mask is he referring meditation on understanding of this text. You to? Suggest reasons why need to consider how they may travel with masks death, both of on their faces. McCarthy crafts the setting, 4) How is the sense of individuals and characters and how he uses language to take us into the constant danger humanity, is by world of the text. communicated to the reader? turns bleak and 5) What does the father do Make sure that your answers with the phone in the exhilarating”. are thorough: Each answer abandoned gas station? must be started with an Why? Adam Mars-Jones effective and detailed topic 6) Think about the literary sentence (unless otherwise style of the book - there are indicated). This sentence no quotation marks to 2) “...[T]he blackened shapes must indicate the main points differentiate speech from the of rock standing up out of the of the answer you are going to rest of the text, and shoals of ash and provide. sometimes punctuation is billows of ash blowing In addition, it must introduce omitted. How does this style downcountry through the the answer in such a way as reflect the atmosphere and waste.” (14) Why do you think to make the question obvious themes of the book? McCarthy uses the imagery of - without simply restating the 7) McCarthy has said in an the ocean to describe the question. interview that his four-year-old landscape? • Make specific references to son John practically 3) There are words being the story for each answer, co-wrote the book: “I suppose used in this novel which are providing quotations as it is a love story to my son.” new to our language - evidence. Why do you think he said “scabland” (16), this? Predict the direction of “bloodcults” (16) are some the plot. examples. What do these terms mean? Why is Section 1 Pages 1-7 Section 2 Pages 8-17 McCarthy combining words in this way? Vocabulary: 4) What are the manʼs main glaucoma, flowstone, pilgrims, Vocabulary: gully, enshroud, mote, concerns, other than avoiding flues, translucent, alabaster, temporal, gryke, transom, other people? Why? decanting, dregs shoals, cauterized, autistic, Questions: 1) This novel is classified as vestibular, chronicle, declination, matrix, Section 3 Page 18-33 part of the post-apocalyptic rotunda Vocabulary: genre. Why? Refer to some of pipeclayed, peril, sconces, the clues in the first section Questions: keel, frescoes, breakfront, which indicate that a terrible 1) What does the father mean effigies, event has occurred. As you when he says, “You forget bogfolk, discalced, firedrake, read, keep track of those what you want to remember, sectarian, deranged clues - record the descriptions and you remember what you of the original event, or the want to forget?” (12) Suggest Questions: consequences of the event, memories he is trying to keep, 1) What is the significance of each time the man refers and sights or experiences he dreams in this novel? wishes he could forget about. 2
  • 3. THE ROAD Study Guide 2) Why does the man say that 2) How old do you think the he doesnʼt trust good boy is? How do you know? Can I ask you dreams? Provide examples from the something? 3) What do we learn about the text to suggest his age. Yes. Of course you manʼs past in this section? 3) What do they do at the can. 4) Identify the ʻtreatʼ the boy waterfall? Do you think this is has in the ruins of the a wise or foolish act? Why? What would you do if I supermarket, and why it is 4) Explain the purpose of the died? significant. fatherʼs flashbacks. Why do If you died I would 5) Why do they go to the they happen so frequently? want to die too. fatherʼs childhood home? So you could be with Section 5 6) What frightens the boy about the house? me? 7) How has the meaning of Page 49-60 Yes. So I could be with time changed for the boy and you. the man, because of Vocabulary: Okay. the disaster? skeins, coagulate, 8) “Can you do it? When the provenance, penitent, 8) How long do you think they time comes? Can you?” (29) cheroot, obsidian, survived together after the To what is the father meconium disaster? Or, how long referring? Why? did the manʼs wife survive 9) “That the boy was all that Questions: before making her final stood between him and 1) What do the boy and the decision? What are the death?” (29) What does this man decide to do when they clues in the text? mean? first see the other man 9) Why is the memory of the 10) Why doesnʼt McCarthy on the road? Why? boyʼs birth as important to the directly state the protagonistsʼ 2) Why did the boy want to man as his wifeʼs suicide? location? help the burned man? Why 11) “Not all dying words are true and this blessing is no didnʼt the father offer help? 3) Explain the significance of Section 6 Page 60-79 less real for being shorn the wallet, and what the man Vocabulary: of its ground.” (31) To which does with it. bracken, emaciation, dying words to you think he is 4) Why does the man allow lacquered, stropping, rachitic, referring? Who or what is the his son to hope and have lepers, ambush, anointing, blessing? How do you know? fantasies about life in the evoke, quoits, changeling, 12) Define “godspoke men”. south? commune (32) 5) No names are given for Questions: any of the characters. 1) Do you think it is realistic Section 4 Suggest reasons why Page 34-38 McCarthy made this choice that a truck would still be functional, and that fuel for the story. would be obtainable for it, as Vocabulary: 6) Describe the argument that indicated in the book? basalt, gorge, bluffs, the man had had with his wife 2) “[H]e had a tattoo of a bird pipsissewa, piedmont, - explain the differences in on his neck done by someone madacam, mastic their points of view on with an illformed whether to live or choose to notion of their Questions die. appearance.” (63) What does 1) “You promised not to do 7) Why didnʼt the woman say this indicate about the survival that, the boy said.” (34) What good-bye to her son? of animal life since the do you think his father disaster? Provide at least one promised not to do? Why? other example from the Does it matter? Explain. text. 3
  • 4. THE ROAD Study Guide 3) Is or was the man a fragile than he would have doctor? What evidence thought. How much was gone "Mr. McCarthy’s final suggests this possibility? already? The sacred idiom gesture here [is] an 4) Why do you think the night shorn of its referents and so is so completely dark in the of its reality.” (89) embrace of faith in the environment of the book? What does this mean? face of no hope 5) Explain the significance of whatsoever. Coming as it does after such Section 8 Page the single bullet left in the revolver. intense moments of 6) What happened to the man 90-105 with the knife, after the father Vocabulary: despondency, this and son got away? woad, runic, motifs, faith is even more of a 7) According to the man, what truncheoned, stile, phalanx, leap than it might be is his job, as a father? forge, in a more forgiving 8) How long had it been since catamites, horde, sedge story." the father had spoken with Questions: another human being, 1) When they stop by the New York Times other than his son? orchard, what does the man 9) List the differences see that he has seen Section 9 between ʻthe bad guys,ʼ and before? Why is it significant? ʻthe good guys.ʼ 2) Suggest reasons for the physical appearance of the Page 105-113 Section 7 armed group of men and women. What is the purpose Vocabulary: port cochere, privet, chattel Page 79-89 of the red scarves? 1) Explain how McCarthy Vocabulary: 3) If the bad guys are on the uses suspense and creates sappers, viaduct, move, why is it not a good foreboding on page 105-106, embankment, parsible, sign for the man and the with regard to the mansion. entities, idiom boy? 2) Do you think the detailed Questions: 4) Why is it important for the descriptions of physical 1) Why do they agree not to father that his son keep setting are necessary for this kill the dog? talking? What is wrong with story? Why? 2) Explain the meaning of the not talking? Explain what it 3) Why is the boy afraid of phrase, “[W]eʼre carrying the means about the boyʼs empty houses? fire.” (83) character. 4) “All these things he saw 3) Do you think the son 5) When the father and son and did not see.” (109) What actually saw another boy, or have conversations, the boy does this mean? did he imagine it? Why? frequently ends their 5) Why doesnʼt the man help 4) Why doesnʼt the father go talk by saying “Okay.” Does the people in the cellar? back to search for the other that mean that he believes Section 10 boy? what his father tells 5) “Heʼd had this feeling him? What else might it before, beyond the numbness mean? Page 114-130 and the dull despair. The 6) Does the boy believe that Vocabulary: world shrinking down about a they will live? How do you formica, cistern, hydraulic, raw core of parsible entities. know? mendicant, palimpsest, The names of things slowly 7) Describe the fatherʼs intestate following those things into strategy after he believes they Questions: oblivion. Colors. The names might be followed. 1) “Is there such a being of birds. Things to eat. Finally 8) Why is this important? within you of which you know the names of things one nothing?” (114) Explain believed to be true. More the meaning of this quote. 2) How do they escape? 4
  • 5. THE ROAD Study Guide 3) What happens at night in 8) “Heʼd been ready to die the house? and now he wasnt (sic) going "This stands as a 4) How does the man keep to and he had to think radical achievement... them going when the boy about that...This was not cannot walk anymore? hiding in the woods. This was A novel of horrific 5) What was the fatherʼs the last thing from that.” (144) beauty... The mistake in approaching the What does the man mean by relationship between house? this? father and son has a 6) Describe what they do after 9) How realistic is this section sweetness that getting away. Suggest at least - do you think a find like this one reason for the lack of would really be possible? represents all thats action. Is this part anti- Why? For what reason does good in a universe climactic? Why? McCarthy include this where conventional 7) How is the next house solution to their starvation? notions of good and different? Why is there no evil have been Section 12 menace or foreboding with the abandoned farm? extinguished." 8) Why is the man concerned - pages 145-156 about his coughing? Vocabulary: 9) Explain the boyʼs reaction 9) McCarthy compares the footlocker, laved, sumputous, to the truth about the people open hatchway to a grave - bonded whiskey in the cellar. what might be his Questions: 10) “Borrowed time and reasons for doing this? What 1) Why does the father have borrowed world and borrowed might it - the shelter - to explain what to do with the eyes with which to sorrow represent? butter and the biscuits? it.” (130) What does this 10) Why donʼt they stay in the 2) What does the boy do mean? shelter? before eating? Why? To what other, traditional act is Section 11 this similar? 3) Explain the reasons for Section 13 - pages pages 131-144 bathing and cutting oneʼs hair 156-167 Vocabulary: - why does it matter in a Vocabulary: begonia, hasp, serrated, post-apocalyptic world? balustrade, pall, decoy, corroded, krugerrands 4) When the father reassures rucksack Questions: his son - “They wont (sic) find Questions: 1) Why does the boy wish that us.” (148) - why does he say 1) What has happened to, or the other little boy was with this? Is he telling the truth? where are, the crows? What them? 5) What kind of global does their disappearance 2) How does the father know disaster would require the suggest? that the town has been empty mass removal and burning of 2) Why do you think they for a long time? bodies? have not yet seen the sun? 3) Why does the man take the 6) Explain the manʼs reasons 3) What does the boy say he flower seeds? for only taking one grocery threw away? Why do you 4) According to the father, cart. think he did that? what do the good guys do? 7) Why does the father tell his 4) When the father cautions Why does he say this? son, “...sometimes I might his son, “Well, letʼs not get too 5) What do they find buried in forget to be on the smart.” (160), what does he the yard? lookout?” (151) mean? 6) Why do you think the 8) Explain the meaning of the 5) Why does the boy ask original owners did not use it? manʼs dream, on page about their long term goals, at 7) List the supplies that they 154-155. this point in the story? find. Why do you think there is 6) What are the boy and the no gun? manʼs “new world 5
  • 6. THE ROAD Study Guide standards” (161) for 8) Why does McCarthy cleanliness? continue to avoid specifying "Hypnotic and 7) When the old man asks where the protagonists are? what the man and the boy 9) “If they saw different haunting, are, explain the reason why worlds what they knew was relentlessly dark, they cannot answer. the same.” (180) Compare this is a novel to 8) For what reason do they how the man sees the world read in late-night stop for the night with the old with how the boy sees it. man? What might it be like to solitude. Though the 9) What does the father want never know about the world focus never leaves the old man to tell him? Why? as it is now - to grow up in the two travelers, 10) Do you think the old man ruins and ash? is as old as he says? Explain they carry our humanity, and we Section 15 - pages your response. 11) What is the significance of cant help but feel the old Man’s name? 180-195 the world hangs in Vocabulary: the balance of their Section 14 - pages cairn, patterans, sundries, notions, dessicated, culvert, hopeless quest. A 168-180 fey, predicated, caustic, masterpiece." —Booklist Vocabulary: quadrants, mattock, bolus bivouacked, threadbare, Questions: buddha, secular, gullied, 1) What do the stone cairns 7) The father tries to prevent middens, kudzu, transit represent? Why do you think the boy from seeing the dead Questions: they start appearing in the in the highway, but it 1) “People were always south? appears not to bother him. Do getting ready for tomorrow. I 2) Locate two examples of you think this is true? Why? didnt (sic) believe in that. foreshadowing in this section. 8) Explain why the man Tomorrow wasnʼt getting Predict the next watches the boy eat, and why ready for them. It didnʼt even developments in the plot. the boy says for him to know they were 3) In the manʼs flashback, he stop. there.” (168) What is Ely recalls a time when they had 9) How did the father know talking about? slept in an abandoned they were being followed? 2) Explain what this idiom pharmacy, and that the Section 16 - pages means: “Beggars cant (sic) be expensive electronic choosers.” (169) equipment had not been 3) What does Ely mean when touched on the shelves. Why 195-204 he says, “There is no God do you think it had not been Vocabulary: and we are his prophets.” ? taken by people? What does corrugate, harrowtrough, (170) that suggest about the ledgerbook, magnolia, spire, 4) Why doesnʼt the old man catastrophe that ended the provisions, enroute, jerry jug, tell them his real name? world? slough, serpentine, verdigris 5) The father has already 4) Why did the three men on Questions: made reference to his son the highway leave the man 1) “Do you think that your being a god. What does he and the boy alone? fathers are watching? That mean by that? 5) What do you think the they weigh you in their 6) Why do you think the boy dream of the snakes ledgerbook? Against what? gives some food to Ely, represents? There is no book and your though Ely admits he would 6) Suggest reasons for the fathers are dead in the not do the same? new distance the father ground.” (196) Who says this? 7) What do you think the boy senses between himself and What does it mean? Why represents? his son. does he say it? 6
  • 7. THE ROAD Study Guide 2) What do you think killed the and they will not come trees? back.” (210) To whom is the "Trenchant and 3) What do you think might man referring? Why do terrifying...fuelled by happen if the man tried to fire you think that? What could be the revolver, and a wooden a thing that death cannot a universal bullet was in the chamber? undo? nightmare... 4) Why did the people leave 3) Predict what will happen illuminated by their food cooking? after they leave the house. 5) What happens when they 4) Predict what they will find extraordinary realize what the people had if/when they arrive at their tenderness... been eating? destination. Do you think McCarthy gives 6) What has the father noticed they will make it? Why? voice to the about the boyʼs emotional unspeakable... His Section 18 - pages growth from the previous year? Explain the boyʼs use of language is as behaviour when presented 213-223 exultant as his with things left by the road. Vocabulary: 7) Where do you think the disinterred, cholera, imaginings are people in the forest got the desolation, careened, slag, hellish...This is art baby? Why doesnʼt the vigilant, okra, that both frightens father tell his son what he iodine, tidewrack, isocline, and inspires." thinks? sepulchre 8) Why does the son Questions: —Janet Maslin, New York Times apologize for what he had 1) Why does the boy stare at said about the dead in the the deerhead for a long time? road? 9) How do you think the father 2) What evidence is there that the boy is feeling hopeful Section 19 feels, watching his son run in about their journey? - pages 223-240 oversized shoes toward the 3) Describe what they find Vocabulary: creek? when they arrive at the beach. sheer-rail, transom, davits, 10) Predict what they will find 4) What do they do when they turnbuckles, souwester, in the next house they arrive? Why? humidor, explore. 5) Why does the father let the sextant, baize, windfall son play in the surf? Questions: 1) What does the fatherʼs Section 17 - pages 6) Why do you think the boy cries afterward? knowledge of sailboat 205-213 7) Do you think the disaster vocabulary suggest? Vocabulary: was truly worldwide, or might 2) What useful things does he palladian, lintel, myraid it have been confined find on the boat? Questions: to just the one continent? 3) How does the sextant affect 1) “We both have to Why? What evidence is there the man, and why? say.” (207) Why does the that everything has 4) “It occurred to him that he father include his son in been destroyed? took this windfall in a fashion decision making. 8) Explain why the wind off dangerously close to Does he do it all the time? the water does not smell like matter of fact but still he said Explain. the sea. what he had said before. That 2) “I think maybe they are 9) Predict what will happen good luck might be no such watching, he said. They are when the father swims out to thing.” (229-230) Explain what watching for a thing that the boat. the father means. even death cannot undo and if 5) Why do you think the father they do not see it they will turn keeps going, when the easiest away from us thing would be to give up? 6)The boy forgets the pistol on the beach, but the father 7
  • 8. THE ROAD Study Guide doesnʼt get angry. Why is Questions: that? 1) How do they find the thief "Wrenchingly 7) Why was going back for the and their supplies? pistol a problem? 2) Why do you think the thief elegiac... Single 8) How does the father get was an outcast? Suggest plot twists chill the them back to camp? reasons why his fingers 9) “The slow surf crawled and had been cut away. blood." seethed in the dark and he 3) Why do you think the thief —The Economist thought about his life responds to the boy by but there was no life to think surrendering? about and after a while he 4) Explain the manʼs 3) Why does the man say that walked back.” (237) punishment of the thief. Do his son reminds him of an What does this mean? What you think he did the right orphan waiting for a is the man realizing here? thing? bus? 10) Of what use might the 5) How does the boy feel 4) “Look around you, he said. flarepistol be? about his fatherʼs action? There is no prophet in the 6) “Youʼre not the one who earthʼs long chronicle Section 20- pages has to worry about whoʼs not honoured here everything...[The boy] looked today. Whatever form you 240-253 up, his wet and grimy face. spoke of you were Vocabulary: Yes I am, he said. I am the right.” (277) What is the father tendrils, magnesium, one.” (259) What does talking about? conjuring, travois, pruned, he mean by this? 5) Why canʼt the father kill his Questions: 7) Where do you think the son? 1) Was it a good idea for the thief went? 6) What is the ʻgoodnessʼ to man to shoot the flare? Why? 8) Why do think the man with which the father refers? 2) What is the father afraid of the bow tried to kill them? 7) How long does the boy stay when the boy is sick? 9) Why doesnʼt the boy want with his father? Why? 3) “He walked out on the to hear his fatherʼs stories 8) What does the boy do beach to the edge of the light anymore? when he sees someone and stood with his 10) Predict what will happen coming? Why? clenched fists on top of his when they leave the town. 9) Why does the man in the skull and fell to his knees parka pause before answering sobbing with rage.” (250) Explain the emotions the man Section 21 - pages the boyʼs question, about whether he is a good guy? is feeling, and the reasons 270-end 10) How long do you think he why. Vocabulary: was following or watching the 4) Predict what will happen lee, askew, armatures, boy and the man? when they catch up to the sloughed, incinerate, crozzled 11) Why does the man in the thief / thieves. ensepulchred, tabernacle, parka say that the boy needs hagmoss, counterspectacle, to keep out of the road? Section 21- pages hydroptic, hydrangeas, 12) Do you think the man in isthmus, prophet, loess, the parka is a good guy? 253-270 bandolier, skirmishes, stoven, Why? Vocabulary: wimpled, torsional, ermiculate 13) Why is the woman glad to communes, sheaves, Questions: see the boy? cognate, impoderable, 1) What does the father say is 14) What does the woman dolmen, oracles, the bravest thing he ever did? represent? moldering, sloe, lampblack, Why? 15) What do the brook trout entabled, rickets, congealing, 2) How has the manʼs represent? bollards, gantry cane, suture perspective about the boy Source: www.tinyurl.com/ changed? Why? vwenglish 8