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Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"

MARCH 2, 2009
I read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" several years ago and it left an indelible impression on me. It is the story of a man and his young son following the road south in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack. They are ill prepared to face the ravages of hunger and nuclear winter. Men have turned to violence and cannibalism out of necessity and in order to survive. Paranoia, fear, loneliness, illness and hunger cast a long and dark shadow every move the man and the boy ( both remain unnamed throughout the novel) make. The distant sounds of humanity send them into a scurrying panic to get out of sight and hide the shopping cart in which everything they own is contained.
Immediately after finishing the novel I began sketching, trying to capture what my mind's eye saw in McCarthy's artful descriptions of the bitter landscape. I imagined trees burnt to sticks; a watery sunlight casting no shadow upon the cold,frozen and stony ground. Bones and carrion were common sights along the cold grey expanse of empty roadway.
The original composition.
My first attempt was unsuccessful on a couple of points- the road itself was too narrow; it favored a country road more than a two-lane highway. Furthermore there was no evidence of humanity in the landscape; as such it became little more than a winter scene. Other projects came along and forced me to abandon this pursuit, but it stuck with me and as time allowed I revisited it. The addition of the guardrail along the roadside and the widening of the road made for a satisfactory composition and I finished it one evening in between projects.
Quick pencil sketch.
© 2024 Steve Wacksman