Hero’s Journey Essay
The hero’s journey archetype or the quest exists in all of literature and especially when the hero has to overcome challenges and grow in intelligence and as a person. The novel begins with a father and a boy who are making a journey across a road, but it is set in a post- apocalyptic world. Neither of them have a name which adds to the tone that it could be happening anywhere and to anyone. Stylistically, there are no chapters, no quotation marks etc. This could suggest in the new world there is no electricity etc and only exist in very limited amounts. They are always “carrying the fire” and as long as they are carrying it they will be safe and secure. In The Road by Cormac McCarthy the main character through the pattern of the hero’s journey, goes on a journey in a post apocalyptic world to gain freedom and a sense of hope when there is none.
The first stage that the son must undergo to complete his quest is known as the separation stage- call to adventure and refusal of call. The hero, who is the son, must start on his adventure when his mother leaves and their world’s falls apart. The son and his father decide to leave and in a sense gain freedom. This is the call to adventure in the novel because some information is received and it tells us why they start their journey. The whole book is a refusal to call. Throughout the entire book, in the back of both the father and son’s mind there is a part of them that wants to die and give up. They wonder if it will be worth it in the end, if they survive. He writes “we are still going south. Yes. So we will be warm. Yes.”(McCarthy 10). At the beginning of the novel the boy seems to know what is happening, but he really doesn’t. Throughout the book, he persistently asks his father what is going on and why and also when things will get better. The father puts on a mask frequently and pretends to have hope, even when he doesn’t because of the powerful love he has with his son. The man believes that God will help him protect the boy. He also has a pistol which is a symbol of safety and love with the boy. Without these stages of the hero’s journey we would miss the crucial explanation of why they want to gain freedom and a sense of hope when there is none.
The next stage the son needs to complete is initiation- road of trails and atonement with father. When the father and son first begin their journey they are faced with many issues and conflicts almost immediately. Shortly into their journey they come in contact with a pack on cannibals scavenging the road in search of food. They are always faced with the possibility of starvation from their lack of food. Shelter is also a major trail in this novel because “he had no strength to carry the child. The few blankets they had would not keep them warm (McCarthy 102). This was a constant thought in both of their minds through the entire novel. They only had a few goals and many were part of their road of trails. The father and son wanted to get to the “other side” as quickly as possible, have enough food, and have some sort of shelter every night. Even though the road of trails was an issue it is crucial and especially in this book, because there would be no book in a sense without it. This whole book is just series of trails- how they overcome them, have a new trail then overcome that one. Because of the road of trails that they get past they continue to have hope to get them through until there obstacle.
The final stage the hero must complete is the return- rescue from without and cross the return threshold. Throughout the book, there is anticipation if they will make it out healthy, even just alive. There rescue in the novel comes after the father dies and the family “magically” appears and rescues him. This brings up a point of them not being alone the whole time, meaning they could have been “helped” earlier, but McCarthy made a certain point not to. He states “the