The Road describes the journey south taken by a young boy and his father after an unnamed catastrophe has struck the world. The man and the boy, who also remain unnamed throughout the entire novel, travel through the rough terrain of the southeastern United States. The conditions they face are unforgiving: rotted corpses, landscapes devastated by fire, abandoned towns and houses. These two travelers are among the few living creatures remaining on earth who have not been driven to murder, rape, and cannibalism.
The father and his son struggle to survive in the harsh weather with little food, supplies, or shelter. Along the way, they must escape from those who might seek to steal from them or, even worse, to kill them for food. Despite their hardships, the man and the child remain determined to survive, reaffirming to themselves that they are the "good guys" who do not seek to harm others. The boy in particular retains his unquenchable humanity against all odds, consistently seeking to help the tattered remnants of living humans they encounter.
Unfortunately, the father's health worsens as they travel, and by the time they reach the ocean, he is near death. He continually coughs up blood, and the two are forced to move at ever slowing rates each day. Finally, he dies in the woods lying next to his son in the middle of the night. The boy remains by his side for several days after his death, but eventually the boy meets a kind family who invite him to join them. The boy must say goodbye to his father and embark on a new journey with this family.