Project 4 (The Road) – Exercise 1

Re-write extract of The Road by Cormac McCarthy using different types of narrator

• First person

I pushed the cart and both me and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case we had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that I used to watch the road behind us. I shifted the pack higher on my shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? I said. The boy nodded. We set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each of us the other’s world entire.”

• Second person

You pushed the cart and both you and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case you had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that you used to watch the road behind you. You shifted the pack higher on your shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? You said. The boy nodded. You set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”

• Difference between boy’s POV vs man’s POV. If McCarthy had chosen to use a third person limited point of view, we would have only seen things from the perspective of one of the characters. Instead, it is apparent from the excerpt that both characters will play an important role in the story. If we were to see things from the boy’s POV, perhaps the story would be more naïve and deal with topics such as growing up. If we were to follow the man’s POV, perhaps it would be a more serious story focused on the past rather than on the future.

• Impact of narrative angle on story. Why did McCarthy use an omniscient narrator? The way we interact and react towards a story greatly depends on what type of narrative it follows. In first-person (and third person limited) narratives, for example, it is very hard not to fully support the protagonist and want them to succeed. In contrast, second-person narratives feel more personal and make us feel like we are part of the story.

I think McCarthy chose an omniscient narrator in order to give an equal importance to all of the characters. Rather than becoming attached to one character and having a limited view, we (metaphorically) stand over the world of the story and see things from above, thus having less biased opinions about the characters and being able to focus on the whole picture.

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