The Hopeless Road

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I love Dystopian Literature. There’s something about the world gone wrong that gets me on the edge of my reading chair. So often, these books serve as a mirror for modern culture, a warning about what could be. Most Dystopian stories end in the triumph over “the man” or “the system” or “the powerful machine”. Humanity, despite being reduced to submissive lumps of flesh, still prevails. Humanity remains…well…human.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy has little to no triumph. McCarthy doesn’t even sprinkle hope amid the darkness, the cold, the terror. Humanity ends up prevailing in a very unexpected kind of victory. My heart broke over and over and over while reading this book.

It certainly did cause me to be grateful for the hope I have in life after death. If this was all there was, this life, then despair is the correct reaction. I wondered at the “man” in this novel who pushed on to survive with no hope of anything improving. Nothing but a future of suffering over and over.

Have you read The Road? If so, what did you think? Do you read Dystopian Literature (think 1984, The Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World)? Tell me what  you’ve read that’s left you feeling hopeless?

16 Comments on “The Hopeless Road

  1. Reading 1984 in high school seemed a bit far fetched at the time, And ironically rather humorous since I read it in 1984 or 1985, and the world did not relect Orwell’s predicions. However, as the decades have rolled on, and technology has increased exponentially, his prophetic abilities seem a bit more plausible. And, it seems that reality is possibly more insidious than he predicted, as we seem to have accepted Big Brother with open arms in the form of our iPhones (yes, I know, I just got one), GPS systems in our cars, and oh so many gadgets that make locating our position on the planet take only a matter of seconds for those seeking to find us. We even announce where we are to a nameless faceless audience through 4 Square, Facebook and Twitter….

    So, reflecting on this…. the 1984 of Orwell to the 2012 of my reality, it makes Dystopian literature, which I already liked, feel a bit more heavy in it’s ramifications. We could end up there (and possibly are there already)… thus our association with characters can feel, as it more often does with historical fiction, even more tangible.

    All that to say…. YES I love this genre, and hope to read the Hunger Games over vacation. (On my iPhone, by the beach, with the GPS turned off. 🙂 )

    (Note: One of my favorite movies of all times is The Matrix. And I loved Eagle Eye and The Adjustment Bureau, and other films like them, with a rather terrified fascination. Maybe the latter cause me to reflect back on Orwell, and see the dystopia we actually do live under already. )

    WOW… that was more than I planned to write this early on a Monday…. I only have half a cup of coffee in…. I may read this later and wonder what point I thought I was making! 🙂


    • With just half a cup of coffee? This was amazingly clear. 🙂

      Yes, I agree with the point about all the technology that we’ve allowed to control our lives. Terrifying, right?


  2. I have avoided The Road because of fear. I generally enjoy Dystopian YA though (Hunger Games, Matched). What has struck me recently is the hopelessness I find sometimes in my favorite genre – memoir. If the person details events from his or her life but in the end does not find hope in Jesus Christ, it’s such an empty feeling. Even when the writing is good – the hopelessness still stings.


    • JJ, I don’t blame you for avoiding The Road at all. It was a tough read.

      Yes, a lot of memoir can sometimes be devastatingly hopeless. I think more so because they are true stories by real people.


  3. Haven’t read The Road, but I just finished the Hunger Games trilogy, and it’s reminded me of why I love dystopian too. There’s something about stories of a crushed humanity rising from the ashes…

    But I gotta say, when I read a book that has no hope, I end up hating it. I’m an eternal optimist, one who appreciates faith so much because of how it imparts hope even when it should logically be lost. The most hopeless book I’ve ever read was actually a Christian historical, and I haven’t been able to pick up another book by that author since. I understand showing the darkness so the light is evident–but it felt like she showed it just to make a point, and there was no light to offset it. No triumph. I won’t name names on that one. 😉


    • You know, Roseanna, one of my dreams is to write a dystopian novel or two. 😉

      I agree. I desire hope. Not that everything needs to be sunshine and bunnies at the end. I don’t even, necessarily need a happy ending. Just hope.

      And now I’m curious about that book… 🙂


  4. I don’t usually read this type of literature due to the amazing despair in our real world and when I read I like to enjoy the suspense of the plot and characters with the expectation of positive results or at least a gleam of hope at the end of the story.


  5. Ironically, I just read two books that made me think of you. “A Room of My Own” by Ann Tatlock and “Grace of a Different God” by Judith and Brent Nelson. “A Room of My Own” is about a young girl growing up during the Depression. I really liked this one and will have my kids read it for school when they get a bit older. I have to say that I’m with Nancy. I have a really hard time reading about despairing real life situations with no hope. “Grace of a Different God” was heart wrenching and emotionally draining for me, but there was a glimmer of hope that made me keep reading. In a nutshell it was about a fundamentalist cult, sexual abuse, and prostitution.
    I guess when I read a book I like to escape into a more “utopian” world!


    • Ooo…I’ll have to add those books to my list! (I just have to say that I love Goodreads…it’s easier to remember what books I want to read)


  6. Haven’t read The Road yet; it’s on my list. But watched The Book of Eli three times in the last two weeks and was quite taken with it because of the hope wrapped up in the apocalyptic landscape. A little confused at the end by the seeming reduction in importance of The Book (if you’ve seen it, feel free to enlighten me), but still a compelling tale.


  7. Well, I posted these comments on Facebook. But I thought I would share them here too.

    Not a fan of the Road. You can read my dislike of it here: http://​​2008/07/​road-by-cormac-mccarthy-boo​k-dialogue.html

    As for my favorite, it is now a dystopian past. But at the time it was a futuristic book. Incredible stuff that I was disappointed nobody had ever introduced to me. You can read about On The Beach here:

    Is this the future for writers? Just linking to articles they have already written?

    The weird thing about dystopian literature is that I rushed to it and found comfort in it when I was wrestling with cancer. Haven’t read a good one in a while.

    Here is one great one that I read. Well worth reading.
    Alas, Babylon

    Here is one that sticks out in my head. I can’t actually recall if it was a great piece of work or whether it is just memorable.
    Level 7:


    • Regan, I always love your cerebral posts. You’re a smarty pants…in a good way. 🙂

      I love dystopian literature. It started with a little writer crush I had on Ray Bradbury in high school (I never told him about it).

      Thanks for the new titles for my reading list!


  8. I have read a lot of dystopian, and also seen a lot of films. There is a lot of dystopia in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I read ‘The Road’ about nine months ago, and what struck me was not the hopelessness that you have pointed out (there are probably lots of McCarthy fans that will send me hate mail for this next statement) but how unoriginal it was. Through the entire book i kept reading scene after scene, and found myself saying ‘seen it’, ‘its been done’, ‘oh no, not this again’, and ‘come on, you totally ripped that off from Mad Max.’ I think that this distraction detracted from my enjoyment of how the book was written. Don’t get me wrong, for what it is, I think it was well written and holds its own in the genre, but my overall opinion was that for someone of McCarthy’s status as a writer, he could have developed better/original scenes to illustrate his points.


    • Yeah. I can see that. You make a good point. I did think Mad Max a few times.

      Don’t worry. I’m not a McCarthy fan. I’d rather read Alex and Sheila any old day!


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