Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” (ThinkExist). This quote can just as easily define literature. Quite often the two genres of inspiration crossover and touch their audiences in comparable ways. Both have scribes of passion releasing their thoughts and emotions from ink to paper, painting a world for us to step into.
While reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I am constantly reminded of the song “Go On Without Me” by Brett Eldredge. For me, the reoccurring Darwinian theme of parental investment, defined as “the time and energy that parents invest in raising their young and the risks that they incur to protect them” (Tool Module: Sexual Selection and the Theory of Parental Investment), carried the strongest emotional impact throughout the book and this song echoes that same level of emotion. Both forms of story parallel each other in describing the emotional struggle of losing someone of importance. In The Road, a man and a young boy leave their home for the sake of survival in a post-apocalyptic world overwrought with cannibalism, thievery and chaos. This road brings many trials and tribulations for the man and boy and we are given a glimpse of their daily battles for food, water, shelter, and personal safety.
Their journey on the road began not so much as a choice but more so as the only viable option of survival. Their family once included a wife and mother. It was her self-sacrifice (suicide) that prompted the father to take to the road. As the father and mother struggled with the overall survival of their family unit it became evident to the mother that her absence would strengthen her family’s chances of surviving. When the man begs her to stay she responds, “We’ve been over all of this. I didn’t bring myself to this. I was brought. And now I’m done” (McCarthy 56). She goes on to argue, “Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They will rape me. They will rape him. They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you won’t face it” (McCarthy 56). She leaves her husband no options in this matter as she ventures out into the winter air. She knows leaving the man and her son will be an emotional burden they will inevitably have to deal with in the beginning but there is no doubt in her mind that her parental sacrifice is for the greater good in the long run; one less mouth to feed, she will not slow them down if they have to run, one less temptation for the bad guys and the removal of emotional instability from an already volatile environment. This same theme is repeated in Brett Eldredge’s song when he writes, “Oh you got so much of this life left to live” (BRETT ELDREDGE LYRICS). The mother knows her son would not have any chance of a future if she stayed, therefore by leaving she at least offers him a chance.
Throughout the walk on the road the father uses multiple opportunities to prepare the boy for lone survival. He builds character by instilling in the boy that they are “carrying the fire” and they are “the good guys” (McCarthy 129). He teaches the boy physical survival skills as well. By nurturing the boy along the road the man prepares him for life after his own death. When the man passes away and the boy is left alone, he is found by a new man and his family. The boy asks, “How do I know you’re one of the good guys” (McCarthy 283)? He also asks, “Are you carrying the fire” (McCarthy 283)? This dialogue shows us how the boy is taking what he learned from the man and putting it into action to ensure his survival despite the loss now of both of his parents. It is evident how the parental investment by his father paid off in the end. Even though his own personal health was failing he continued to pursue the road with the boy; dredging on to get the boy as far down the road as possible. “You need to go on…I can’t go with you” (McCarthy 278), said the man to the boy. This sentiment is carried over from the song, “Go On Without Me”.
The meaning behind Eldredge’s song is also relevant to the story of The Road. Close to the time Brett was writing the album “Bring You Back”, a close friend passed away at the age of 28. This friend had fought and fought for Brett to get on the radio and would do anything to make his dreams become reality. Brett struggled with the loss of such a kind-hearted person that sacrificed so much for his benefit just like the boy in The Road hurt through the loss of both parents who had also invested so much in his well-being.
The first lyric of the song, “Every man has his place in time” (BRETT ELDREDGE LYRICS) is a testament to the evolution of the boy on the road. His journey began as an innocent boy living a typical life in a safe home with two loving parents. Thrust into a world marred with things no child should ever have to see, he learns self-reliance and finds his place in time.
Though the book was, for the most part, emotionally draining and an exhaustion of the heart, I found the ending to be inspiring. The boy’s strength and resilience shined through in one remarkable instance when he stood strong in front of the new man. Listening to the song evokes the same seesaw of emotions. Hearing the emotional plea of the lyrics tangled with the inspiring music stirs both feelings of sadness and hope. It is this balance of the heart that, for me, draws the book and song together as complimentary to one another.
“BRETT ELDREDGE LYRICS – Go On Without Me.” AZLyrics.com. 2014.Web. July 11, 2014 <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bretteldredge/goonwithoutme.html>.
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage International, 2006. Print.
ThinkExist. “Plato quotes.” ThinkExist.com. 2014.Web. July 11, 2014 <http://thinkexist.com/quotation/music_is_a_moral_law-it_gives_soul_to_the/149006.html>.
“Tool Module: Sexual Selection and the Theory of Parental Investment.” thebrain.Web. July 11, 2014 <http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/outil_bleu11.html>.