Quotes About Survival in The Road

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

''The Road'' by Cormac McCarthy is the story of a man and his son who struggle to stay alive while living in the aftermath of the destruction of civilization. In this lesson, we will examine some quotes about survival from the story.


How are your survival skills? Survival is being able to do what it takes to stay alive. Some people have had a great deal of training and practice on how to live off the land, while others have a hard time making it through a night without running water and electricity. In The Road by Cormac McCarthy, an unnamed man and his son have survived for years without modern conveniences after an unspecified impact knocked out the electricity and decimated most of the country. Let's examine their survival by looking at quotes from the novel.

Something To Live For

'They were moving south. There'd be no surviving another winter here' explains the narrator. These lines provide the total premise for the book. Food is scarce, cannibals are all around, and the man has developed a terrible cough from the ash in the air that becomes progressively worse as time goes on. Whether or not they will survive in the south remains to be seen, but the man knows without a doubt that they won't make it if they stay where they are.

His wife told him so just before she killed herself. After he claims they were survivors, she says, 'Survivors?... What in God's name are you talking about? We're not survivors. We're the walking dead in a horror film.' For her, there is more to surviving than simply existing. She no longer wants to live in fear of being raped and eaten by the cannibals. Before she leaves, she says, 'Maybe you'll be good at this. I doubt it, but who knows. The one thing I can tell you is that you wont survive for yourself. I know because I would never have come this far.'

She is right about that. The man only fights for survival because of their son. He is completely aware that at some point, he may be the one to have to kill the child to prevent him from facing something worse, but for as long as he can, he does whatever he can to keep them both alive.


Along the way, they meet an elderly man who calls himself Ely. Ely is not really his name, but the man doesn't trust the man and the boy enough to give him his real name. Ely claims that he doesn't want to die, 'but I might wish I had died. When you're alive you've always got that ahead of you.'

Ely has an interesting perspective about surviving. He says, 'I think in times like these the less said the better. If something had happened and we were survivors and we met on the road then we'd have something to talk about. But we're not. So we dont.' Like the man's wife, Ely does not consider living in times like these to be survival.

The Beach

When they finally make it to the beach, they find a boat that is filled with supplies. The boy asks his father whether the people are dead, then surmises, 'the odds are not in their favor.' However, he holds out hope that there could be people alive somewhere, but probably not these people, 'because if they were alive we'd be taking their stuff.' Since death is a way of life, the odds of finding survivors are slim, but there is still hope.

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