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Chp7 the Road Copy

Chp7 the Road Copy

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Published by MrSmithLC

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Published by: MrSmithLC on Jan 03, 2012
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01/03/2012

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CHAPTER
7
e Road
e publication of 
e Road 
in late 2006 ushered in an exciting pe-riod for McCarthy scholarship.
is reclusive “writer’s writer” whohad labored for so long in relative obscurity (certainly in terms of popular recognition) was now headline news.
e novel almost uni- versally received glowing reviews, and within a matter of months, itwas announced that it had won the Pulitzer Prize. Perhaps more sur-prisingly, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as one of her Book Clubselections, something which introduced McCarthy to an entirely new readership; gone were the days of foraging around for copies of his novels, as you could quite easily now pick one up in the super-market alongside Danielle Steele’s latest. Rumors also abounded thathe was to make an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, his
rstsuch appearance, and the Coen brothers announced that they wereto make a big-budget adaptation of 
No Country for Old Men.
McCarthy’s novels have always reminded us of the majesty of thenovelistic form in an age when the genre has been pronounced dead,exhausted, and obsolete; his style and linguistic range have remindedus of the capacity language retains to surprise and excite, and many readers have found that they could not easily shake o
 
a McCarthy novel when they were
nished with it. All this was certainly true of 
e Road 
, but there was something else to it as well. Every now andagain, a work of 
ction will come along that o
 
ers a startling critique
 
IN THE WAKE OF THE SUN
254
of the culture that produced it and, despite its bleak or challenging vision, manages to somehow strike a chord with its readership, and
e Road 
is one of those novels.American writers have historically been charged with picking upthe check when the nation
nds itself in a crisis, and in these situa-tions, succeeding generations of novelists attempt to get to the very root of the malaise a
 
ecting the national consciousness.
e chal-lenge can be boiled down to one question: What happens when the“city on a hill” has lost its moral force and luster? With McCarthy’smost recent novel, there are plenty of causes to explain this dysto-pian sensibility, and
e Road 
succeeded in tapping into this bleak zeitgeist.
e con
icts in Iraq and Afghanistan signaled a grim notein the nations history, and the zeal of American exceptionalist rhet-oric used to justify them had worn extremely thin.
ere was wide-spread disillusionment with the Bush administration.
ere was alsoan increased awareness that the planet was on the cusp of irreversibleecological disaster, and that damage had been done to the environ-ment that would permanently alter our relationship with landscapeand wilderness.
is last point is a pronounced theme in Americanliterary culture, and the nation’s literature has frequently exploredthe changing nature of this relationship.It is clear that
e Road 
asks some profound questions aboutAmerican culture and the relationship between myth, history, andthe national consciousness.
e novel is quintessentially Americanin many respects, and it continues McCarthy’s mythoclastic pro-gram. Perhaps no narrative form is more quintessentially Americanthan the road narrative, but the one o
 
ered in the novel problema-tizes the myths of mobility and prosperity associated with it.In
Postmodern Cartographies:
e Geographical Imagination inContemporary American Culture
,
 
Brian Jarvis draws our attention
 
THE ROAD
255
to the fact that much American literature,
lm, and cultural theory (even in the postmodern era) exhibits geocentric themes that havecharacterized the nation’s artistic and intellectual life for so long.Jarvis maintains that space has always been of paramount impor-tance to the American literary imagination, and he argues thatAmerican
ctions are duty bound to mirror the utopian or dysto-pian sensibility prevalent at the moment of composition, observingthat although “the lenses may have altered considerably … all subse-quent observers have been obliged to observe American landscapesthrough some kind of ideological eyeglass.”
1
Borrowing the famousDickensian refrain, Jarvis notes that the representation of space inAmerican culture—and the mythical paths, tracks, roads, and black-tops which connect these spaces—have been the best of places or theworst of places and that “always the land itself loomed large in theimagination of America.”
2
Developing this theme, Jarvis points outthe following:
What is essential … is a recognition of the following:the central role that geography plays in the Ameri-can imagination and the way in which that imagina-tion bifurcates towards utopian and dystopian an-tipodes. Many of the key words in the discourses of American history and de
nitions of that nebulous en-tity referred to as “national identity” are geocentric:the Frontier, the Wilderness, the Garden, the Land of Plenty, the Wild West, the Small Town, the Big City,the Open Road.
e geographic monumentality of theNew World inspired feelings of wonder and terror.
3
 
1
Jarvis,
Postmodern Cartographies
, 2
2
Ibid., 1.
3
Ibid., 6.

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