The Road: 3rd Journal Entry
“He was just hungry, Papa. He’s going to die.
He’s going to die anyway.
He’s so scared Papa.
The man squatted and looked at him. I’m scared, he said. Do you understand? I’m scared…You’re not the one who has to worry about everything.
He looked up, his wet and grimy face. Yes I am, he said. I am the one” (259).
When the man makes the thief strip to protect himself and the boy, does he really have enough of a justification for taking another man’s life? Is it enough, especially considering that it broke the heart of the boy, the one thing he is so consistently trying to shelter and encourage? The one thing that drives him forward, gives him hope, makes him weep late into the night just thinking about how incomprehensibly it has preserved the miracle of goodness in a thoroughly, incomprehensibly wicked world? Why risk destroying that goodness, corrupting it? The man attests that he is the one who has to worry about the pair, worry about their next source of food, shelter, clothing, water, worry about the day-to-day things that manage to keep them alive and pushing forward. And yet the boy is the one who has to worry about their humanity, their ability to call themselves more than savage, instinctual animals, their right to claim that they are truly the “good guys”.
“You need to find the good guys but you cant take any chances. No chances. Do you hear?
I want to be with you.
You cant. You have to carry the fire.
I dont know how to.
Yes you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I dont know where it is.
Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it” (279).
Upon reading this, my first thought was that forcing the boy to go on was the wrong thing to do. Yes, it is precisely what the man had lived for, and yes, it is all he can claim to have done well on this devastated image of an earth, but what are the chances that the boy will actually find the good guys? Is it fair to force him to keep moving forward considering his being raped or eaten is much more likely than his coming across an even half-decent human being? But the father has hope. He kindled the flame, he tried to protect the boy and his humanity as best as his ashen heart could manage, he prepared him, and now he must set him free. Set him free with an unfounded faith that the boy will be able to both survive and find genuine happiness, a desire to live for not only the memory of his father, but for himself as well. And against all odds, the boy finds it.
“You got two choices here…You can stay here with your papa and die or you can go with me. If you stay you need to keep out of the road. I dont know how you made it this far. But you should go with me. You’ll be all right.
How do I know you’re one of the good guys?
You dont. You’ll have to take a shot” (283).
But the boy only finds it because he didn’t take his father’s advice, he didn’t listen to his dying words, to take “no chances”. Despite everything his father tried to teach him, his innocent trust and empathy and compassion wins over and makes him take a ridiculously dangerous chance. A chance that ends up saving him. The boy only manages to find goodness in the world because of the goodness of his heart. A flame attracting a flame. And the father’s dying wish, no matter how apparently selfish or naive or hopeless, is fulfilled. He did his best, and against all odds, his best was enough.