Monday, June 09, 2008

Fathers and Sons, Postapocalyptic Version

On the recomendation of gentle reader Craig, I read Cormac McCarthy's dystopian father/son novel The Road. Civilization as we know it was destroyed by nuclear warfare several years before the story takes place, and few survivors remain. Among the survivors are a father and son who are constantly on the move, seeking warmth, food, and survival. The unnamed father in the story is a jack of all trades, a la McGuyver, who can make use of anything he can scrounge. He protects his son against cold, illness, predatory gangs of survivors, and a dangerous desire to share the duo's limited resources with other desperate survivors. The son is the father's sole reason for living, and the father is the only other person in the son's life.

The son was born shortly after the nuclear winter began, and, therefore, knows nothing of the world as we know it apart from what his father has told him about it. The son also relies on his father for explanations about the harsh ethics created by their dire circumstances. I kind of related to this aspect of the story, especially when the son would say "it's okay" whenever the father would provide explanations. My oldest son frequently says, "it's okay," as he works to calm himself following a disappointment such as me not taking him on an airplane whenever we drive past the airport (not always successfully, as he destroyed the armrest in my car the other day). Much like the father in the story, I worry about my childrens' futures after my own death. They are entirely dependent on the adults in their lives in order to function in the world, and, barring a cure or a miracle, they will always be largely dependent on other people. They are particularly close to me and always have been. I'm sure they'll fare well without me being around, but the concern will always be there.

Additionally, some poignant moments in The Road involved the father either watching the son sleep or putting him to sleep. Our boys are ages 9 and 11, and we have the same bedtime rituals we had when they were infants. Those rituals have always been almost sacred to me.

ETA: I recommend this book to any gentle readers who might be expectant fathers. You know who you are.

T uses anything that looks like luggage to feed his fantasy of driving to the airport and boarding an airplane. He mostly used plastic first aid kit boxes, but brought out my old briefcase once or twice. He's happy as a clam riding around town with those containers in the car, at least until we drive past the airport.

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