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By placing the novel in the context of the new capitalism, the article explores the ways in which Mc Carthy’s treatment of mobility deviates from previous American road narratives, which typically celebrate the pleasures and possibilities of movement and flight.Concentrating on the novel’s dystopian “catastrophism,” the essay will further investigate its relation to temporality, history, and the future.
In this respect, my way of analyzing is to some extent inspired by Slavoj Žižek’s and Fredric Jameson’s famous claim “that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism” (Fisher 2)—a theme to which I will return a number of times throughout the essay.
Throughout American history, positive images and symbols of mobility constitute a key aspect of cultural discourse, ranging from the most conservative national mythology to the desire for radical alternatives.
At one point in the novel, the reader is told that some “part of him always wished it to be over” (163).
Despite his survivalist ethos, then, the father seems to be in secret agreement with his dead wife, who, before committing suicide, explained: “We’re not survivors. contradicts the conventional idealization of the road motif, one can see the novel as an engagement with the more sinister side of mobility, portraying types of imposed or forced movement rather than the “joy rides” (Kerouac 13) and ecstatic explorations in Kerouac’s novel or Whitman’s blissful wanderings on the open road.
(2006), a father and his son “push down the road a battered shopping cart, containing their bare provisions, on a thoroughly consumed earth” (Seltzer 189).
Despite the fact that the novel seems to be situated in an indistinct no-man’s-land, marked by a curious absence of time and history, this essay argues that it is indeed worthwhile to historicize .
And this, I would argue, is not substantially contradicted by the novel’s mythical ending with its vague messianic allusions and the fact that, after the death of his father, the son is taken in by a family with seemingly good intentions.5 While the novel surely reflects on the state of grace, human kindness, and compassion against the backdrop of a wholly catastrophic and hostile environment, there is no evidence anywhere in the book that the sheer existence of such qualities—the survival of people, that is, who continue “to carry the fire” (Mc Carthy 298)—gives reason to hope for any positive change at large.6 Instead, the glimmers of goodness one encounters in are nothing more than just that: rare instances of human behavior in a setting in which the only thing to effectively hope for is the provisional postponement of death.
And this, one can even detect in the survivalist discourse of the father, whose strong sense of endurance is constantly accompanied by thoughts about the inescapability of death and total extinction.
that creates the precarious status of refugees on the move; it is rather the earth itself, which seems to be in a state of complete decay, having lost most of its resources and potentials.
As there is hardly any fertile vegetation left, the only way to survive is either to become a cannibal, or, like the man and his son, live mostly of canned goods, the rare remains of the pre-catastrophic era.