The Road

Section 5 Page 49-60 q 3

Explain the significance of the wallet, and what the man does with it.

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One day, the father empties his wallet of money, old credit cards, his driver's license, and a photograph of his deceased wife. He throws away the wallet, then lays his wife's picture on the road and leaves.

The man's act of leaving his wife's photograph on the road is richly symbolic. His wife chose to commit suicide rather than travel the road with her family in search of safety and survival, but the man deposits her picture on the road instead of dumping it somewhere else. Thus the man acknowledges that she was on the road with them in his mind and in some way is still on the road, but he finally is leaving her behind. She may be on some other path toward her own salvation; they indeed have parted ways. She chose to die, and he chose to live. Yet, when he leaves the photograph behind along with his wallet and his contents, he is admitting a kind of defeat for the old world. He had been keeping these elements of the old world together with him, but now that he has failed to help the burned man, he realizes that he can no longer keep up the idea that there is an old world to hope for. He lost some part of his humanity by not even trying to help, and so now he leaves behind the symbols of his old life, even the photograph of his wife.