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1-Page Summary of The Road
A man and a boy sleep in the woods. They are both cold, so they huddle together to keep warm. Every night is pitch black, and every day is gray and gloomy with no sunlight at all. The man dreams about the boy guiding him into a cave on the other side of a lake. There’s a blind creature on that shore that knows their location but can’t see them because it has no eyes. In his dream, he wakes up before reaching the cave’s exit; he doesn’t want to go any farther for fear of being seen by this monster.
The man looks around outside for something useful or interesting (he hasn’t kept track of time since years ago). He wants to head south when winter comes, as it will be warmer there than where they are now.
The man looks down the road and sees all of the trees are dead, colorless, and covered in ash. He wears goggles to protect himself from that ash. The boy is his reason for living, and he thinks about him constantly as a way to stay alive.
The man returns and finds the boy still asleep. The man takes out his pistol and their breakfast of cornmeal cakes, as well as a mirror so he can keep an eye on the road behind them. After they eat, they leave with everything they own in a cart that has a motorcycle mirror attached to it for the man to watch where they’re going. They walk slowly because there’s no hurry since there’s nowhere else for them to go.
A man and his son are walking down a road, when the man decides to go into a gas station. He searches for food or tools but finds nothing useful. He picks up the phone behind the desk, but it doesn’t work. They walk on until they reach an abandoned house, where they decide to spend the night. The boy wants to light a fire in order to keep warm during “the long gray dusks” and “long gray dawns” that will come soon enough.
When they cross a river, the narrator notices that all of the trees are bare and charred. There are some billboards on fire next to a burned house. It starts to rain, so they cover their cart with a tarpaulin, hide under a rock ledge and huddle together for warmth. When it stops raining they climb up the hill but don’t find any sign of light or fire anywhere in sight; there’s nothing at all except darkness because it’s night-time. They make camp (either by building tents or sleeping outdoors) and have dinner (prepared by burning wood).
The man and the boy try to sleep, but the boy is scared. He asks the man questions so he can fall asleep. The man tells him that they won’t die, and that they’re going south where it’s warm. The boy wants to know what would happen if he died, and the man says he’d want to die too so they could be together forever. So, after a while of thinking about death with his heart “like stone,” the man falls asleep too.
The next morning, the man prays to God and tells him that he wants to throttle and damn him. Then they set out on the road. They see a dead body in an abandoned city. The man tells the boy that “things you put into your head are there forever”.
The author remembers walking through the woods on his uncle’s farm with his uncle as a child. They rowed across a lake and back in silence, but the day was perfect to the boy.
The man and boy continue traveling south for many weeks. Everything is cold, dark, and ashy because of the nuclear winter that resulted from the war. The man thinks about how lonely and abandoned Earth feels now that everyone has been killed off by radiation poisoning. One day it starts snowing, so the boy catches a snowflake on his hand to watch it melt away like the last hope for mankind.