Classics English Literature

“The Road” novel v. “The Road” film

            “The Road” is a novel that was written by Cormac McCarthy in 2006. It is a story about a father and a son who are trying to survive after the world has been destroyed. The author does not give details or explain what led to the destruction. He does not want the audience to miss the whole point of the film, which is the relationship that the father has with the son and the struggles they go through to keep each other alive. The father teaches the son about morality and the whole concept of trust. He teaches him that not everybody can be trusted but there are those who can be trusted. This lesson comes in handy later as the story reaches its climax and the father dies. The son has to stay in the company of another family that has been trailing them for some time. The son also reminds the father of the lessons he has taught him about morality and it is he who urges him on not to be one of the evil people around.

The story shows the father’s will to have his son survive in the treacherous world. He tries to protect him from any danger and further misery including the surviving human beings who have turned into cannibals and savages. He kills one of the cannibals who attacks them and promises his son that he is capable of doing anything to protect him. The father protects the son from himself and does not want the boy to know of his sickness and he tries to shield it from him. He does not want the boy to know that he is nearing his death. There is no life around them. The sun no longer shines and there is no vegetation. The novel describes such a state of despair, misery and sadness such as the one that has never been seen before.

In November 2009, three years after its release, the novel was adapted into a film. It was directed by John Hillcoat and the script was written by Joe Penhall. Viggo Mortensen acts as the father and Kodi Smit-Mcphee acts as the son. Both the novel and the movie have several similarities. They have tried to capture the world in the worst possible light. They have shown but not described how the world had faced destruction. Though McCarthy has described about the earthquakes and other forms of destruction, this is not seen in the movie. The movie is just shown briefly. There is a major advantage of adapting a novel or play into a movie. Some elements are usually left out or if they are included, they are only shown briefly.

This makes the movie to have less impact than the written work. It does not allow the readers (or in this case viewer) to widen their imagination. Lack of time and increased expenses usually result to this. The road is no exception to this. Another advantage of written work over movies is the fact that in the novel, there is much information given about the particular characters or certain situations. One exception to this rule is seen in this movie. During the filming of the road, the boy’s mother was given a wider role than the novel accords her. There were other differences noted during its filming, both with the characters and with the setting. The director tried to justify some of these differences by saying that they did not change the whole idea of the story and the same spirit was still there.

The boy’s mother had committed suicide some time after the boy was born. She did not see any forthcoming hope. The movie gives her a more defined role than the novel. The movie shows a flashback of the boys’ parents during happier times before the major disaster happened. The boy was born shortly after this. By showing the flashback, the movie may seem to be digressing a bit from the original story giving the illusion that it may just be another Hollywood story. Reading the novel, one does not see any bright light at the end of the tunnel or the beginning of it. When one reads the novel there are no happier times mentioned. In fact, the mother leaves a young child under the care of his father and walks out into the night without being concerned about whether or not they need her.

In the novel, the father had carried a pistol with one bullet in it. This is not the case with the movie. Here, the father carries a revolver with two bullets although he does use one of the bullets to kill a cannibal. As he is dying in the movie, he keeps telling the son to lower the pistol yet it is clear that it is a revolver. The father had hoped that when the worse came to worst, he would use the bullets to kill both of them. He would kill his son first, then kill himself rather than face the painful death of being killed by cannibals. There is a time when he almost did this when they had been captured by cannibals. However, he did not get to go ahead with the plan since he saw an opportunity for them to escape and he seized it.

Probably due to the horrible, scary and graphic details that are narrated in the novel, the movie’s director chose to omit some of the scenes. There are scenes where one would not be able to comprehend if they were shown in the movie. Some of them are so horrifying such that one would have nightmares if he or she had watched them. Reading about them is not as hard as seeing them. Many such cases were the ones that involved cannibals. The novel describes how at one place, an infant that had just been born was roasted in a pit. The movie just shows the infant’s corpse. Moreover, even with this minor detail, one cannot erase the image from their memory.

The novel describes that due to the sun not shining and the weather being so cold, there was no vegetation. Life ceased to exist and nothing grew. Food and drinking water were scarce and people fought over the little that was available. Though the same situations are shown in the movie, there are instances where trees are shown when they are standing tall and strong. This brings a major contradiction. Everything is supposed to have been burnt in the fire. Even though the director did not show the greenness of the trees, the best thing could have been to avoid them all together. In conclusion, there are differences, which cannot be avoided during adaptation. Some of them are necessary to save the viewer from watching some of the graphic details.









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