A world-maker's will: the post-apocalypse and human power in Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Jackson, Alexander David
SubjectMcCarthy, Cormac. The road.
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This thesis discusses human empowerment in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Road. While much of present-day scholarship on The Road views the novel as nihilistically highlighting the hopelessness of existence after a cataclysmic event, this thesis provides a counter-reading that argues for the existence and sustainability of human empowerment in the post-apocalyptic space imagined in the novel. I focus on the non-physical and non-relational power that can be found within the self, and particularly within the human mind, arguing that the father and son protagonists find routes to power only by means of a detachment from the reality of the ruined world that they face and a turning inward to their individual ideals, philosophies and imaginations. This thesis situates The Road in the context of the concept of the apocalypse, and its popular contemporary form, the post-apocalypse genre. It then draws on the philosophy of Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant, among others, to demonstrate how the protagonists develop their own philosophy as a means of creating and maintaining their empowerment in the fact of societal and environmental collapse. This thesis relies on intensive close-readings of the novel and engages directly with the extensive scholarship on The Road that is already published. The result is an optimistic reading of The Road as an exemplar for empowerment in the post- apocalypse, that is charted through a reliance on the self, and the mind. Ultimately, it provides an optimistic reading of The Road as an exemplar of empowerment through a reliance upon the self and the mind.