Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, is a blood-curdling thriller that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. In a post apocalyptic world, a boy and his father tread their way to the coast in hopes of a better life. They face debilitating hunger, threatening weather, and cannibals in their journey to the ocean – a journey, in which fear is a prominent sensation for the two. The boy and father never feel truly safe, and thus; there hearts are constantly racing. “Bloodflood”, by Alt-j, exemplifies the emotions felt by the two characters in McCarthy’s novel, and more specifically, the emotions of the man and the love for his son.
Parental investment is a major theme throughout McCarthy’s novel. The man’s sole motivation is his son. The Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropology defines Parental investment as:
Within Life History Theory as the allocation of resources, such as time or energy, to offspring that incurs some cost to the parent. That cost is usually measured in terms of the benefits to a particular offspring which curtail the parent’s ability to invest in and produce other offspring. Some level of PI is found in all reproducing organisms, but PI is most costly in those species providing parental care behavior at pre-natal or post-natal stages of life, including egg guarding, preparation of nest, brood carrying, incubation, placental nourishment, and post-natal care including food provisioning, lactation, and protection of offspring. (Parental Investment)
Though some of the aspects of Parental investment do not apply to the man, he demonstrates the significant level of investment he has placed in the nourishment and protection of his son. No one and nothing will stop him from carrying out the commitment he has made to protect his son. Through keeping this commitment, the man experiences an immeasurable amount of fear regarding the survival of his son.
The man’s level of parental investment can be seen throughout the novel. This instance, however, captures the sincere fear the man has for his boy. For example:
The boy was tottering on his feet. He asked to be carried, stumbling and slurring his words, and the man did carry him and he fell asleep on his shoulders instantly. He knew he couldn’t carry him far. He woke up in the dark of the woods in the leaves shivering violently. He sat up and felt about for the boy. He held his hand to the thin ribs. Warmth and movement. Heartbeat. (MacCarthy 116)
The boy, ridden with exhaustion, has become ill. The father fears for his life and continues to make sure the boy’s heart is still beating. Throughout the novel, it is suggested that the boy could be the hope to revive the Human race. Thus, the common phrase “carrying the fire” is spoken between the two. The man’s parental investment is not just for the boy’s survival, but also for the survival of the Human race. When this survival is threatened their hearts race and tremble with fear.
“Bloodflood”, demonstrates the many emotions, especially fear, that the father and son experience. For example,
Tide out, tide in,
A flood of blood to the heart and the fear slipstreams.
Breathe in, exhale,
I’ve poked a nerve he’ll slap me like a whale
Slaps the C-O-double M-O-N.
Flood of blood to the heart. (Newman)
The first line represents the constant oncoming of fear. Fear is something that the father and son experience continuously, as often as the tides rise and fall. Fear is a routine that they will never get used to hence, the “flood of blood to the heart”. The long, drawn out “come on” represents the man’s motivation to keep going and continue to “carry the fire”. Breathing is the tool they use to calm and collect themselves after a flood of fear overtakes them.
The melody of the song is representative to the novel due to the drab, slow beginning. As you hear the melody, you can imagine the father and son waking cold, hungry, and ill, they begin to pack the cart and walk down the road. If I were to reread this novel, this song would play in my head as I read. It would remind me of the unpredictable and dismal fear that lurks around each curve of the road. The song also leaves the listener with a sense of uplifting motivation towards the end, much like the novel. The interpretation of the lyrics leads me to deduce that a man was facing another in a possible fight. The “flood of blood” and the fear the man in the song experiences reminds me of the fear the man and the son face on a daily basis.
Bloodflood link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAanHxFmSgY
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.
Newman, Joe, and Thom Green. Bloodflood. Alt-j. Rec. 2011. Charlie Andrew,
“Parental Investment.” The Center for Academic Research and Training in
Anthropology. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2014.