The Apocalypse / McCarthy / The Road
“Dreaming of Islands – whether with joy or in fear…is dreaming of pulling away, of being separate, far from any Continent, of being lost and alone” says Delueze in Desert Islands and other texts. The Deserted Island, that fabled space is inherently a place of Isolation. The Apocalypse is an Island. In it we find that simultaneous distance, yet desire for destruction that supposedly runs identity anew. The Apocalypse destroys all social identities, it cuts its subject down to alienation and into introspection. The stories are usually populated by a few sparse characters, hence there is rarely complete isolation, but their relations become strained, they lack the world of relations they once inhabited. Its isolation is unique because of the liberation it provides, yet it often brings to bear the price of destroying civilization, as one of the characters in Dawn of the Dead proclaims about Zombies, “They’re us!”.
In Cormac McCarthy’s The Road all such pretensions such as Zombies are dropped. In the desolate Apocalypse, man is a cannibal. McCarthy’s book are usually rather brutal. They are studies in masculinity, but their bare frames are populated with ideas. The Road is something of a study in morality, its protagonists refuse cannibalism, but suffer greatly for their ethical fortitude. It is however the complete nothingness of the novel that makes it unique, McCarthy isn’t interested in anything more than the context, the novel’s characters never become clear, its plot is at most minimal, what McCarthy is in love with is the bleak alienation of the environment and the questions it can provide. The novel is full of cheesy little comments about God (which is interesting because so many Apocalypses are either ecological or scientific these days), but its the setting that matters, the way McCarthy manages to remove all hope of rebirth. His prose has always been iconic, landscapes become maps of the unconsciousness, alienation is cherished in mute bluffs and streams become stories. McCarthy is adept enough a writer to make his landscapes characters, and the environment is the most novel’s most developed character, but it says a lot about us the reader that we desire such environments, that desolation is our imagination’s playpen, and does it make us cannibals, that we desire alienation of this level, that we wish away humanity on occassion?