Desiree’ Ramos Professor Payte



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Desiree’ Ramos

Professor Payte

English 28

May 29, 2015

Good vs. Evil

Imagine being trapped in a deteriorated world having to commit savage acts for your survival. The post-apocalyptic novel explores the journey of the man and the boy trying to survive on their way to the south. Through out their journey, they face multiple incidences in which they have to face the “good guys” or “bad guys”, hence having the obscureness of being good vs. evil. The book, “The Road”, by Cormac McCarthy, utilizes characterization to highlight how the lines between good and evil have become blurred in the obliterated world they live in.

In the midst of a world with substantially no hope, the man and the boy choose to be “good guys” on their journey, refraining from hunting and pillaging. Along their journey the man and the boy encounter many people who have either lost their humanity or have chosen cannibalism. When the man and the boy encounter their first cannibal, the man analyzes him noticing the cannibal looks “like an animal inside a skull looking out the eyeholes.” (McCarthy63). This highlights the fact that there are people in this world who aren’t acting human anymore. Later on, there was a fight between the man from the truck and the man and the boy. The man from the truck grabs the boy and threatens to kill the boy. This forces the man to shoot the man from the truck, resulting in killing him. The man says to the boy, “You wanted to know what the bad guys look like. Now you know. It may happen again.” (McCarthy77). The man was the good guy in this case and the man from the truck was evil. The only reason the man shot him was out of self-defense for the boy. This revealed that it’s every man for himself and how you always have to protect yourself.

The man fails to realize that he also has traits of being a bad guy. If it weren’t for the boy, the man would probably be one of them. When the man and the boy run into an old traveler named Ely, this shows that the boy influences the mans actions. The man gives Ely food, and the man tells Ely “You should thank him you know… I wouldn’t have given you anything.” (McCarthy173). The man was saying to thank the boy and if it were not for him, Ely wouldn’t be getting any food. In instances like these in their journey and after seeing his father have to kill someone, the boy questions whether or not they are still good guys. “Are we still the good guys?” (McCarthy77). According to the father, the two will always be the good guys simply because they do not eat or rape people. Both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are willing to harm others in order to survive; they just have different ways of approaching it.

Though there is no clear term of what it is to be a “good guy” or a “bad guy”, everyone has their moments. The incident where I noticed good vs. evil being blurred was where the thief stole the man and the boy’s cart. The father confronted the cart thief, and the man saw the thief had a knife. The man said, “If you don’t put down the knife and get away from the cart, the man said, I’m going to blow your brains out.” (McCarthy255). The thief looked at the boy and saw that he was sobering, so he did what the man said. The man took the cart back, but he wasn’t finished yet. The man said to the thief, “Take your clothes off.” (McCarthy256). The thief and the man went back and forth, but the man insisted. The boy started crying and turned away sobbing, as he couldn’t watch the thief strip down to nakedness. The thief said “I’m starving, man. You’d have done the same.” (McCarthy256). This is why there is no clarity of good vs. evil, everyone is fighting to save themselves.

The behavior of “good guys” and “bad guys” reveals that when, in a world where civilization does not exist, there are no laws either. Murder is no longer an epidemic amongst them; everyone is thinking about their survival. The being of good and evil is indistinguishable since there are no lengths people will not go. The man threatens to kill a bunch of people along the journey and he tries to justify his actions. The man says, “I wasn’t going to kill him.” Then the boy replies, “But we did kill him.” (McCarthy260). The man was too busy trying to get revenge and justify his actions for the sake of the boy, that he could be classified as a “bad guy” for that very moment.



Shortly after the incident with the thief, the man died and in his last words he told the boy to be aware of the bad guys when he’s gone. Unexpectedly, after the father passes, some more good guys appear and they take the boy in, and the boy doesn’t end up alone. Throughout the book, the boy and the man had multiple conversations about the “good guys” and the “bad guys” making it seem like it’s one or the other. The man was trying to influence the boy to think of the world as being black and white, even when the world is gray. There really is no good vs. evil when you have to face a world like this. McCarthy used characterization in these different scenes to show with a world like this their spectrum is different, having no labels for anything, leaving everything unknown.


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