You Can’t Give Up

In The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, a man and his son are traveling down a road in an abandoned world. They only have each other and the boy relies heavily on parental investment. The man has to make very many tough decisions and try to always do what is right for his son. They have to rely on each other to get them through their tough journey. I noticed another evolutionary trait in this novel that is linked to parental investment is dreams. Early humans have passed down dreams and parental investment, but The Road sheds a new light. During their journey, the man has to watch over the boy as he sleeps and therefore, witnesses many of his dreams. Some of the dreams are bad, but others are an escape from the harsh reality they are living in. The dreams they share make their relationship closer. After one of the bad dreams the boy has had, the man says, “When your dreams are of some world that never was or of some world that never will be and you are happy again then you will have given up. Do you understand? And you can’t give up. I won’t let you” (189). The man uses one of the boy’s bad dreams to teach him that no matter what bad situation they are in, they cannot give up. This intertwines his evolutionary habit of parental investment with their ability to dream. After reading this novel, I can see how the boy and the man use traits they have evolved from previous ancestors to enhance their chances of survival. Even the many dark dreams they have help them get through the many gloomy days and nights.


You Can’t Give Up


—found poem by Cailyn Scanlan, excerpted from The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2006). New York: Vintage, pp. 3, 5, 18, 21, 22, 26, 29, 57, 69, 98, 102, 113, 115, 139, 175, 189, 227, 261


Nights beyond darkness

He watched the boy

in dreams from which he wakened

He slept little

and he slept poorly


Dreamt of walking in a flowering world

The boy held onto his hand

and followed behind

The boy was all that stood between him and death


My heart was ripped out of me

The unseen sun cast no shadow

No wind

Dead silence


Stared bleakly at the gray drifts

The trees standing alone made the faintest shadow

He could only see the darkness

All he saw was terrors


The richness of a vanished world

set out through the dark woods

The dull carbon light of the crossing moon behinds

making the shapes of the trees almost visible


In the night he woke in a cold dark

Its just a dream

Dreams so rich in color

Most of it broken


McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print



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