What is the significance of "the fire" to the man and the boy?
That the man and the boy internally "carry the fire" signifies that they are the "good guys." Upon his deathbed, the man assures the boy that the fire can be found within the boy. The fire represents internal human strength in the form of qualities such as hope, perseverance and resilience, as well as morality, the ability to retain one's humanity in the face of ultimate destruction and evil.
How do the protagonists distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad guys"? Are the protagonists indeed the "good guys"?
The man and the boy consider themselves good guys, which they tend to see as seeking survival without harming others. They only scavenge for food and supplies, but they try not to steal from others, and they punish those who steal from them. In contrast, the "bad guys" are willing to hurt, use, or murder others for their own benefit. Yet, a central conflict in the novel is between the boy’s idea of what good guys do, on the one hand, and what the father does, on the other hand, in being so afraid of others that he refuses to help them, and in more severely punishing others than the boy thinks is necessary.
How does the boy's relationship with his father change over the course of their journey?
The boy matures over the course of this journey, and his changing relationship with his father reflects this growing maturity. At the beginning of the novel, the boy looks to the father for knowledge and guidance, believing his father to speak the truth unequivocally. However, as he gains new experiences, the boy learns to use his own judgment and can assess somewhat better whether or not his father is telling the truth. He begins to question his father's honesty on such matters as whether or not they are truly the "good guys" and asserts his own opinion when