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Lauren Collins Arnold INTL 3111 4/25/2014 The Road The distinction between "the good guys" and

"the bad guys" is easily recognizable in most Hollywood films. Most viewers do not have to question the reasoning behind why the hero is "good" and the villain is "bad"; But in the film The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same title, the distinction is not as readily understood. In the film's apocalyptic wasteland, where a man and his son must survive against all odds as they make their journey to the coast, the human population has dwindled. Those who are left can be put in one of two categories: lone stragglers fighting against starvation and clans of cannibals who feed on the weak. This emotional, and at times frightening, film explores how an individual can find hope in a hopeless situation. When analyzed in conjunction with Toni Morrison's Nobel acceptance speech, the film makes a statement that man is compelled to fit his life to a larger narrative. This theme arcs towards a greater truth about an individual's role in shaping the master narrative of humanity. Most importantly however, it shows how a culture's narratives can shape the individual. While on the surface this film tells a tale of physical survival, at its core it uncovers that it is a person's spirit that allows them to survive. One way that the film takes focus off of physical survival is that "the post-apocalyptic future was shot with a brown/gray filter to emphasize the dull, decaying planet"(Christopher). In the film it is explained that the Earth is dying, so literal death is inevitable. The man realizes this so he focuses his energy on the survival of humanity, through the survival of his young son. In a future where many others, such as the man's wife, have turned to suicide as a better alternative, people need something to live for other than just life. Once the desire to live for the sake of being alive is not strong enough to counter the desire

to die, "surviving the wasteland requires more than finding food and shelter; surviving the wasteland requires re-creating the communities that the apocalypse has erasedeven if those communities will exist only in the imagination"(Knox). In the case of the man, this community is the "good guys". By living within this narrative of being "good", the man finds motivation to survive. Of course, his ideas of "good" and "bad" come from a world that no longer exists. In this new society, most people have rejected cultural moral values in light of the need to survive. Some commit suicide and some turn to cannibalism. The man realizes that there is no point in surviving if there is no purpose to his life. The man finds his purpose by clinging to a noble narrative from his past. He tells "the boy old stories of courage and justice", strengthening their desire to live in such a way. The man was greatly influenced by the narratives of his society. He clings so strongly to them because they are the only things he has from his past. Even his son, his greatest joy in life, was born post-apocalypse. Everything around the man has changed, but his narrative of being a "good guy" is able to stay constant. The definition of "good" may have been altered, in that now he must kill people to survive, but the idea itself has stayed the same. He finds hope in believing that being a "good" guy is important. The concept of cultural narratives is one that can be seen throughout literature, including in Toni Morrison's Nobel acceptance speech. While in this speech Morrison speaks of the power and importance of language, I believe that the term "language" can be expanded to mean the same thing that is meant by "narrative". Both language and narrative are cultural constructs that allow the individual to express their place in the world. The strength of language is its ability to "reach toward the ineffable" (Morrison), to try and express the things that man knows is true in his heart.

I believe that the ideas found in Morrison's speech can provide a broader context by which to analyze the man's desire to live true to his narrative. As Morrison states, "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." On a practical level, the man's first priority is survival because the point of living is to be alive. One of the ways that he achieves this goal is through using the narrative of the "good" guy as motivator to continue wanting to live. Being a "good guy" gives purpose to his live. But why is that? It is because he knows, whether consciously or subconsciously, that it gives his life a greater purpose that means more than just mere survival. If his purpose for live is to survive, that purpose is gone once he dies. But, if his purpose is something greater than himself, it will live on after death. His narrative as a "good guy" will be the measure of his life and by keeping this narrative alive, in the form of his son, his life will have had a greater purpose than just survival. It is people like the man, the "good guys", who are carrying humanity through the dark and dying new world. The man explains it to the son that they are "carrying the fire" in their hearts. This ideas of "carrying the fire" is repeated many times throughout the film and for the boy it is the qualifier of a "good guy". One of the people that the man and his son meets is an old man named Ely (a reference to the prophet Eli from the Bible), who proclaims that "whoever
made humanity would find no humanity here" on Earth. While this may seem true at times on a larger scale, humanity exists in the actions of the "good guys". The man has instilled this narrative in his son, who always tries to help others. The boy himself is a symbol for the hope of humanity in a postapocalyptic world because he proves that you don't have to be born into a thriving culture of morality to possess morals. In other words, humanity is something that can survive as long as people are taught to be the "good guys". While The Road is generally thought of as a dark and gloomy film, I believe that it offers hope about humanity in general. As long as narratives of the "good guys" exists in our society so will their

values. A culture's narratives play a vital role in shaping the character of the people in the society. Each person has their own narrative, but when lived out in context of a "master" narrative it gives people a greater purpose. To be a part of something so far reaching and eternal as the narrative of humanity, is a goal that all people can use to find meaning. Narratives define not only who we are as a person, but who we are as a culture. Every person adds their narrative to the greater narrative of humanity. While this narrative may shape our expectations of ourselves, we are the ones who shape the narrative through our actions and decisions. Every individual is in some aspect responsible for the continuance of humanity. We must carry the fire, but we do not have to carry it alone.

Works Cited Jay, Christopher W. "The Road Film Analysis." HubPages. HubPages, 2011. Web. 01 May 2014. Knox, P.D. "Okay Means Okay: Ideology and Survival in Cormac Mccarthy's the Road." Explicator. 70.2 (2012): 96-99. Print. Morrison, Toni. "Nobel Lecture." Nobel Prize. Nobel Foundation, 1993. Web. 01 May 2014.