This novel is classified as part of the post-apocalyptic genre. Why? Refer to some of the clues in the first section which indicate that a terrible event has occurred. As you read, keep track of those clues - record the descriptions of the original event, or the consequences of the event, each time the man refers to them in the narrative.
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The Road opens with the man, one of the novel's two central, unnamed protagonists, awakening at night to check on his sleeping son. Even in sleep, the man and the boy wear facemasks. The man has been dreaming about wandering in a flowstone cave, led by his son, "Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast" (3). In the dream, the man and his son arrive at a "black and ancient lake" across from a blind creature (3). The creature is translucent, and its innards are vaguely visible. The creature turns away from the man and the boy.
At dawn, the man leaves his makeshift bed with the boy to investigate the land, "Barren, silent, godless" (4). He does not know what month it is, though he guesses the season is autumn. The reader understands that the man and his son have been on the move for at least a year. The man uses binoculars to search for any signs of life, but he finds none.
When the boy awakens, his father is already by his side with food ready. The father believes their location is unsafe during the daytime because they are visible from the road. With their shopping cart and backpacks, which carry their most necessary belongings, the boy and his father travel the dead land, heading south.
They come across an abandoned gas station, and the father decides to check if it still bears any useful objects or tools. He finds nothing of use. The description of the gas station, as well as of the overall landscape, reeks of bleak desolation and abandonment. The father picks up the phone and dials what used to be his own father’s phone number. They leave the station, but the father quickly returns and removes all of the oil bottles from the trash in order to collect as much motor oil as possible. They will use the oil for their lamp. The boy says that his father will now be able to read him a story.
As they continue to travel, the landscape remains charred, dead, abandoned. "[T]he shape of a city stood in the grayness like a charcoal drawing sketched across the waste. Nothing to see" (7). It starts to rain, so the father leaves the shopping cart in a gully, protected by a tarp, and he sits underneath a rock overhang with his son to stay dry. After the rain stops, they retrieve their cart and make camp. They survey the city below from the top of a hill to check for signs of fire or light, but they see none. They prepare for bed. The son is too tired to have his father read to him, but he asks to keep the lamp on until he falls asleep.