In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is an AK-47

A couple of nights ago I woke up around 3am, which is pretty par for the course lately. Because of various issues, I have this tendancy to only sleep for a few hours at a time which usually results in a period of wakefulness that runs from 3 to 6am or thereabouts. Usually I pop some pills and then putter about doing random things until I manage to fall asleep once again. This particular night, I picked up a book that my sister (the pregnant one) had left here the last time she visited. I ended up finishing it within a few hours and it got me to thinking. Let me give some background first though.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a post-apocalyptic tale wherein a father and son travel across the US, trying to reach the coast where they hope that things will be warmer if nothing else. Like most of the post-apocalyptic narriatives out there since the nuclear age, it looks like the world is wracked by nuclear winter in which the sun is never seen, food is scarce if not non-existant, and almost everything as far as plant and animal life is concerned is dead. Added to this basic horror are, of course, the roving bands of Mad Max-like nutjobs who have turned cannibalistic and drive along chaingangs of slaves which serve as both sex toys and dinner. Though, I hope, not at the same time. That might just be a little too freaky.

Anyway, as you might imagine, the boy and his father are 'good guys', literally. They often refer to themselves as 'good guys', in contrast to the crazy nutjobs they run across who alternately try to steal from them or eat them who are, no surprise, 'bad guys'. They are the ones who carry the fire and that's a metaphor that's been used in more novels and stories than I can name. Those who carry the fire into the dark places where other men fear to tred.

To add to the angst of it all, the dad has with him a gun with 2 bullets at the start of the novel. It's interesting because the bullets are not only a means of defense but also a means of suicide. In flashbacks, it's revealed that the wife/mother has already killed herself, unwilling to continue on through the Hellish existance of their lives. She points out that that the only reason the father goes on is because of the son and that's certainly true enough. A quote by McCarthy later says about the father and son that they are "each the other's world entire".

Now, I know that in the end this is supposed to be an uplifting tale about the survival of hope and goodness in a land forsaken. The boy repeatedly throughout the novel cajoles the father into giving food to others or to aid other people despite the fact that they have little enough themselves. The boy makes him promise that they would never kill a dog to eat it despite being on the edge of starvation and cries in protest when the dad ends up stripping a thief of everything he owns after having attempted to steal everything they had. The boy is even a messianic figure of sorts but I can't help wanting to smack the hell out of him. There's a great quote in the book which says 'Where men can't live gods fare no better'.

While I spent some time pondering the deeper elements of the story, I found that what I eventually became fixated upon is what I would do if this apocalyptic picture of the future came to pass and I was stuck in the middle of it. Immediately the plans start to whirl in my head and almost everything revolves around the necessity for a good stockpile of weapons. Since I'm not a very accurate shot, having once almost shot my own face off, I figure I would probably do best with a shotgun or something full auto on spray mode. I even pondered a while about which was better, barrels of flour or barrels of rice, factoring everything from liklihood of spoilage to the amount of calories provided per volume.

Really though, I know that my plans for a post-apocalyptic world would be far more similar to the mother's than to either the father's or boy's. Hell, I'm not sure that life is all that spiffy as it is, and that's without the whole cannabalism and nuclear winter aspect tossed in. Besides, if something like this did come to pass, they wouldn't be kidding when they said the living would envy the dead.
Tags: book club, book club: cormac mccarthy

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