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Character Archetypes in The Road
Transcript of Character Archetypes in The Road
What is a Character Archetype?
Character Archetypes in
-A reoccurring theme that appears along the novel's journey.
Through out his text McCarthy expresses that in dire time where suffering occurs, the standards that are set for "normal" characters are altered fit into the text in an unorthodox situation. The way each character fits or doesn't fit into its usual archetype, McCarthy offers commentary on human nature and how we interact with our world.
Such a character may be represented as Fairy Mother who guides and directs a child, or Mother Earth who contacts people and offers spiritual and emotional nourishment (Golden)
- The Mentor
By Carolyn Hart and Cameron Petkov
The Villain: A character whose main function is to go to any extent to oppose the hero or whom the hero must annihilate in order to bring justice (Golden)
Salvation, Hope, The Idealists
Generally, character tropes exist to " provide universal acceptance" for the readers, and offer context to the story. However, many modern writers warp or abandon the comfort of the archetypes to make a larger point.
"Serves the purpose of providing physical training and/or wisdom to the protagonist in his or her efforts to achieve the outer journey of the story "
Harry = good, hero, sacrificial, sets out on journey
Voldemort = bad, corrupted, evil, cruel
Dumbledore = mentor, wise, incorruptable
Hamlet = hero, good, triumphant
Horatio = sidekick, supportive, carries on legacy
Claudius = evil, corrupted
Laertes = corrupted, collateral damage
- In the Road, the man understands that his life is near the end, therefore makes it his responsibility to prepare his son to live on his own, representing the "outer journey of the story.
The Man as the Mentor
"You put it in your mouth and point it up. Do it quick and hard. Do you understand? Stop crying. Do you understand? "(McCarthy 113)
"Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now. And we're still going south. Yes. So we'll be warm. Yes."(McCarthy 10)
"Shh. I'm right here. I wont leave you."(McCarthy 113)
"Keep the gun with you at all times. You need to find the good guys but you
cant take any chances. No chances."(McCarthy 278)
McCarthy often takes traditional character archetypes and twists them around.
The "Mother" in The Road commits suicide, effectively abandoning her child, and only refrains from killing the boy as well because the Man begs her not to.
The Mother Cont.
So why did McCarthy make the mother figure like this?
In this dark of a world is it a mother's best hope to spare her child suffering? The best magic this "fairy godmother" can offer her child is "eternal nothingness" (McCarthy 58)
"You can't pro us. You say you would die for us but what good is that? I'd take him with me if it weren't for you. You know I would. Its the right thing to do"(McCarthy 56)
"And she was right. There was no argument. The hundred nights they'd sat up debating the pros and cons of self destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall"(58)
Or is has this particular Mother been changed by the lack of hope
"They say that women dream of danger to those in their care and men of danger to themselves. But I don't dream at all." (McCarthy 57)
Maybe the Man has taken up the Mother role?
"I can't help you. Maybe you'll be good at this"(McCarthy 57)
The Cannibals serve as the main antagonistic force in the story, being a literal physical danger that the man and boy have to fight off
But they also represent the worst humanity, and the main characters, are capable of. The main characters don't have to "annihilate" the cannibals, but they must resist the urge to resort to their baser animal instincts to survive
Though the cannibals are the "villains" they are also seemingly the only successful group. All the "good guys" are no where to be found. And so if you have to be a cannibal to survive, are you really still a villain?
The New Family that adopts the boy serves as a hyper-idealistic hope for the future.
They maintain a strong nuclear family with children
They retain the capacity to help and accept others, something that the boy's own father had trouble doing
They are the "good guys" the boy and man were always looking for
They express interest in religion and maintaining morals
"Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. On the mattress lay a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. The smell was hideous." (McCarthy 34)
"He looked quickly to see what had happened. What is it? he said. What is it? The boy shook his head. Oh Papa, he said. He turned and looked again. What the boy had seen was a charred human infant headless and gutted and blackening on the spit. He bent and picked the boy up and started for the road with him, holding him close. I'm sorry, he whispered. I'm sorry. " (McCarthy 209)
"This was the first human being other than the boy that he'd spoken to in more than a year. My brother at last. The reptilian calculations in those cold and shifting eyes. The gray and rotting teeth. Claggy with human flesh. Who has made of the world a lie every word."(McCarthy 118)
"We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we? No. Of course not. No matter what. Because we're the good guys? Yes."(McCarthy 195)
New Family Quotes:
"He [The Boy] sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up. Are we still the good guys? he said. Yes. We're still the good guys. And we always will be. Yes. We always will be. Okay. "
"Where's the man you were with? He died. I think you should come with me. Are you one of the good guys? The man pulled his hood back from his face. His hair was long and matted. He looked at the sky. As if there were anything there to be seen. He looked at the boy. Yeah, he said. I'm one of the good guys." (McCarthy 336)
"The woman when she saw him put her arms around him and held him. Oh, she said, I am so glad to see you. She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didnt forget. The woman said that was all right. She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time. "(McCarthy 389)
-These common archetypes appear through out various different genres of literature
They can represent the same theme in various pieces of literature but are represented by the respected author in a unique manor.(Golden)
The "innocent" is often represented by women or children. These characters are pure, who do not turn evil regardless of dark circumstances. However, they are not able to recognize the evil that appears through out their journey. They attempt to see the goodness in everyone.(Golden)
In the Road, the boy makes it his duty to protect and care for others. Regardless of the pain and hunger that he endures, he always tries to find a way around hurting other. Consequently, he is not able to understand that others on the Road are not as good hearten as he is. However, due to the extreme case, the boy is forced to veer away from the traditional "innocent"charatcer
The Boy as the Innocent
"The boy kept looking back. Papa? he whispered. What is wrong with the man? Cant we help him? Papa?(McCarthy 50)
"The boy squatted and put his hand on the man's shoulder. He's scared, Papa. The man is scared" (McCarthy 162)
"Maybe we could give give something to eat."(McCarthy 163)
"What if that little boy doesn't have anybody to take care of him? he said. What if he doesn't have a papa? "(McCarthy 85
"And I'd given that little boy half of my food"(McCarthy 86)
A character who lacks morality and courage. Characteristics that resemble the complete opposite of the hero present in the play and goal is to hinder the morality of the main charatcer. (Golden)
Through out the couples encounter with Ely, Ely expresses his pessimistic views that directly hinder the optimistic mind for the boy. In all case where the boy has hope, it is Ely's role to destroy the hope.
Ely the Anti-hero
Religion is a key factor in keeping the morale of the boy high, Ely attempts to disprove the possibility of the existence in God
-"There is no God and we are his prophets"(McCarthy 170)
-"Where men cant live gods fare no better. You'll see. It's better to be alone."(McCarthy 172)
The boy has a constant will to survive and is the one human still alive that believes it is possible to make it through the disaster. Ely expresses to the boy that this belief is foolish.
-"When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too.
Golden, Carl. "The 12 Common Archetypes." Soul Craft. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. <http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html>.
Harry Poter. Filmweb. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. <http://www.filmweb.pl/news/FOTO: Harry Potter kontra Voldemort na nowym plakacie-71880>.
McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.
Tabb, Michael. "Major Character Types - "Mentor"" Script. 14 May 2014. Web. <http://www.scriptmag.com/features/script-notes-major-character-types-mentor>.
The Road(2009): Pictures and Stills. Ace Show Biz. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. <http://www.aceshowbiz.com/movie/road_the/photo.html#>.
Untraditionally, the boy is forced to learn skills like how to commit suicide in the event that he is found by the bad guys. Skills that the normal pre-teen boy is taught.
You put it in your mouth and point it up. Do it quick and hard. Do you understand?"(McCarthy 113)