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What do you make of this paragraph? I have been thinking about this alot but have no answer. Clearly its very deliberate, but Why is it there?


I think it is the son, years from the ending of the book, telling a story to his children. I have shared this perspective with a number of friends who have read "The Road" and while no one agrees with this interpretation, they all find it compelling.


I think it is a reflection of the world as it once was, before man arrived; how without man, the world had it's own complexities and secrets, beautiful and simply wild. This passage refers to what once was, in contrast to what the boy never would know and what perhaps we take for granted, "the bigger picture"...nature's giving.
I also liked the following sentence from early in the book, I wrote it down because it has such power, "What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not."

erik granath

it is inevitibility of this struggle. you'd have to understand the body as a coffin and human kind as a destroyer of itself, of nature not to nurture, but the surroundings of us a codex of secret destruction, an end. you'd have to understand that the stars don't give a flying fuck, even when a sextant is the only thing that is found striking and put back away.


Excellent forum, added to favorites!
Good luck!


What wiped me out about it was the contrast between that para and the entire rest of the book. Until then the key adjectives were all ashen / grey / dust / burnt / sullen etc. Lots of quite tangible and vivid descriptions, but all of ugliness, and of undifferentiated ugliness - the ugliness of monotony. Then, in the last para, a blow-you away precise and striking description of beauty in uniqueness - it could have been anything - a clearing in the wood, a bird, an oyster, in fact the randomness is the whole point. And that all those individual unique flashes of beauty are irreplaceable, non-interchangeable and precious. They precede us, but they are now all vulnerable to our species fucking the whole thing up and destroying them all forever, forever, forever.


I just finished the book. WOW. I have to disagree with the above comment "it couldn't have been anything"? It couldn't have just been any fish or bird or forest. Brook Trout have such wonderful colours that stand out when the sun hits them, pinks, and blues, and greens. It's a reminder of what we had, or even possibly what we still have as opposed to the grey, colorless and uglyness portrayed in the book and where we are inevitably going to end up.


Found this on another website. I agree with it.

He is talking about the post apocalyptical world here. ONCE there were fish in the very mountains where this father and son crossed to get to the sea. But no longer. And things will never be put back right again. In the deep glens where the fish lived, all things were older than man. But yet man - the newcomer on Earth - the last to arrive here - is the one who ends up taking control and eventually destroying the planet. And it can never be made right again. Because the conditions that existed in the beginning when man evolved from the sea will never exist again.

This is a warning. This is the point of the book. This is a work of speculative fiction. It is taking a situation in the present and projecting it into the future. He is saying that if man continues on his present course, this will happen. But you will notice he is very careful never to actually tell you what happens that kills the majority of the people on earth. We only know that something happened and happened fast and simultaneously all over the world. You can really make one of two choices. Either man destroys itself through bombs or pollution. Take your pick. The result is the same. Once we destroy the world, we can never get it back again.


There are two times in the book where the father racalls a moment when he gazed into the river and saw the trout pass below and the flashes of light that they produced as they tumbled over each other. In the end, I think the story of the trout is the father's voice that the son must listen carefully for and to. The stories of the past are what drive him to move on and keep the passion and idealism alive in the child's mind as the world decays around him. To not hear the constant voice would be to despair, and the boy is too hopeful to do so. The stories of his father remain in his DNA, and that is what continues to the end.

lizzie kaye

I think that it is in the future, and that while things can't be put right, because of what people took away, more then they could ever give back, that there are things that men can not touch. I think it might be one of the most lovely ways to end a book. Suddenly, after seeing all the horror and ugliness of what people did, the book ends on a note of hope, zooming out, and while encompassing what happened, also, going forward. He says that they were older then man and hummed of mystery, showing that there were things still bigger and greater then the horror that happened.


I just think that this was the story that the man wanted to tell the boy, but never did.
a beautiful glimpse of a time before the apocalypse...
the story was so simple in its delivery but so profound in its true messege, i will never forget this book.


I agree with Tim, and yes, after all the grey ash and fire in the book, the last paragraph is stunning in its ability to contrast the world as it has become with the sheer beauty of nature before man destroyed it.

It speaks of a thing that cannot be put back - there is no going back in The Road. The damage can not be repaired. The mystery is over.

Really makes you look at nature differently after reading it doesn’t it? Fortunately I had recently read The World Without Us, so I wasn’t so mollified by the destruction in The Road. The world has survived worse, and nature has returned after a few millennia or so. While I agree with McCarthy’s pessimistic take on humanity, I have a lot of faith in the universe to reproduce the mystery either here or elsewhere.

“Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it”


The paragraph is meant to be ambiguous to a point, but I've drawn my own conclusion. If you read McCarthy's Blood Meridian, you know that he doesn't fall into the cliche of ending things well.

The imagery of the trout and its settings describes the world as it once was before man (and you can imagine the certain order of things while man reigned). But, this world can never be again. You have hopes for manking since the boy was found after his father dies by a man who had a family and had taken others in. Maybe the world as we know it would recover, but I think from the final paragraph (which ranks among the best written in my opinion) we get the idea that the world will never be righted again.


Throughout the book, "The Road" is a symbol for a journey to find lightness in a world overcome by darkness. Humankind has lost its way and each of us wanders alone, trusting few others. Are this maps through the darkness? Yes, in the vermiculate patterns we will find maps of the world and its becoming. The map to the road is in nature, all around us, and if we destroy it, there may never be a way back.

For us, not all is lost. The brook trout still swim in the streams. The maps are still there. We just need to start seeing.

This is one of my favorite books and this last paragraph is something I live by.


I took the "mystery" to mean the unnamed apocalypse (or the reasons for it). There have been many global extinction events throughout Earth's history, all before man, and we can only theorize as to why they occurred.

Are we so vain to think we're exempt from what's been going on since long before us?


Imho its about evolution. the mystery of it and mans humble place in it. Man may destry the world, it will rise again without man. The serendipity of the existence of man is underscored with this.

In blood meridian the judge says "the mystery is there is no mystery".

"The road" ends with the antithesis of this: man is on earth by coincidence and we should cherish that.


I feel to really grasp this ending, its important to look at the picture of a brook trout.
It looks like the creation of the universe. On its underbelly a great fire, the big bang, and on its side both single celled organisms as well as the galaxy, and on top mazes and walls and cell morphing and paths.
Its really quite beautiful.
And this last paragraph talks about this simple beauty, which we take for granted, and "Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again."

We have a duty before the shit hits the fan to fix what we've done.


"Analyzing a poem (and thereby a piece of prose) is like boiling an alarm clock to see what makes it tick."

William Stafford


Here's an interesting 2 page conversation on the meaning of the last paragraph:

Lady Di

Did anyone notice the resemblance of this closing paragraph to the poem "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins?




My own, rather leftfield theory is that he thought it up and then decided he needed a novel in front of it.

Probably wrong, but what the heck. It is an unbelieveably beautiful piece of writing.


I think this paragraph is very hopeful. Although the things once were can no longer be put back, life would survive through evolution, perhaps different from previous species of the past. Remember that this is such a personal book for the author, written at a time when he's at the twilight of his life. And since this book is dedicated to his son, there can only be hope for a better for him despite a bleak and uncertain future. Really amazing book.


If you listen to John Hillcoat's directors commentary on the movie DVD, where he had Cormac McCarthy on set there to answer any questions about the text of the book, Hillcoat states that "in the book after the boy meets the family it continues on to into the future years later when the boy is older, in some ways the book finishes optimistically in that it shows he has lived on through the years".
Now although this may just be Hillcoat's interpretation I can't imagine he wouldn't have sought to confirm it with McCarthy (who he states is now a close friend of his). Therefore I think this is the closest we will get to receiving an explanation from the author that the last paragraph describes how the trout have not lived on as what man has destroyed cannot be put back, but that man has survived, the good guys do survive.


The focus on the mystery of nature and how there were things that were "older than man" made me think of the insignificance of man in the wide scheme of things. Nature was there before and nature will be there again, constant and unchanging as an eternal force, even when man seems to be dying out.

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