We Will Not Make It Right
What would sin, evil, and death look like if we stripped away our efforts to turn them back, to paper over their effects in the world? I think the world would look like The Road, and I think that is what McCarthy is (partly) getting at in the book. McCarthy’s man and boy live in a reality in which the results of the Curse are seen in every aspect of creation, not merely in humanity: dead, black trees that collapse, water and snow and air that are completely polluted, an ocean the color of lead and devoid of life, the total lack of the fruit of the ground and of livestock, skies that rain fire down upon them but block out precious light and heat. The entire creation groans against the man and his son, giving them nothing in return for man’s curse-causing sin.
The majority of the human beings they encounter are already corpses, while the few still living are miserable indeed. These people, creatures made in the image of God, inThe Road are all devouring one another, or being devoured, cannibalism being the ultimate display of the human self- and mutual-destruction that sin engenders. While the author states that this is his story “about the good guys,” their goodness is seen as an exception to the human condition, a condition which is no longer hidden by the luxuries of modern life.
Two passages cited in entries below point us in this direction, one from the beginning and one from the end of the story. First, “The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night” (28). Something prior to the catastrophe was hiding the true state of the world and human society, including its morality. Second, “On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again” (291). Again, there was some aspect of the world which no longer was, which cannot be made right again. The man and the boy cling inseparably to Goodness, all while knowing that their clinging belief is at base irrational and presuppositional: there is no reason to be good other than to be not evil. Goodness is at the end of the ladder of causation.
Knowingly or not, McCarthy has painted the most vivid picture of human sin and evil that I have ever seen, one that makes me truly examine how I think of my sinfulness and Christ’s forgiveness of it. This is what sin and misery are like. Yet The Road also gives me more hope because there is coming a time when this frail world will be remade into what it was Meant To Be, when all these things will be made right. But he is surely right that it will not be us who does so.