Dante’s Inferno and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road are both similar in comparison of the themes of each book. There are many different themes in both stories but most of them all seem to connect. Dantes theme is a world that shows the worst fears of the olden day Catholic thoughts of Dante’s time.
The Road shows a world of the darkest fears for American thoughts such as the apocalypse. Although both authors have extremely different settings, era and story, both of these texts imitate an imaginary world that reflects on human spirituality and shows society through sin and suffering in a empty place.
In The Road McCarthy represents society in a crisis mode. He writes about the darkest thing we can picture in human nature, cannibalism. It makes us think about what we would do in that scenario. Dante writes about the deepest sins that humans fall into by showing the consequences and what happens in the afterlife.
Dante writes about the afterlife and McCarthy writes about global destruction, which are both an unseen, but hidden reality in life. Both books begins almost the same, with a dream. The man and Dante are both being awakened from a dream.
The man in The Road has a dream of a beast that swings his head and then suddenly runs back into the cave, leaving the man alone and unharmed. The same in Dantes book. The “restless” beast frightens him but also leaves him unharmed (47). People find it easier to view the man and the boy unlike the cannibals and show the cannibals as villains, but the reason the people became cannibals was not by choice but a way to survive.
They have been brought into an apocalyptic work and are pushed to desperation because without food they will die, and in some sense, dying is scarier than eating your own. When the man and boy find a basement of naked prisoners who belong to the cannibals, the “bad guys”, the boy starts crying and fears that they too will come to sin and eat people too, “We wouldn’t ever eat anybody, would we?” (128). The man assures the boy that they will never eat anyone, and the boy says, “Because we’re the good guys” (129). The boy creates this term “good guys” to separate himself and the man from the cannibals, or “bad guys, ” because he does not want to believe that they are the same as those people. In the Inferno and The Road both show the common humanity that the main characters share is with both the sinners and cannibals, because sometimes whats wrong and to sin is the only way to survive. Another theme in both books is how both Dante and the man both travel with someone. The man travels with the boy, and Dante travels with Virgil. The man was a fatherly guide to the boy, he relates to Virgil relationship to Dante.
The boys survival depends on his father, so he is constantly questioning the father because of him, his father knows all. Although the boy has different views then the man, it helped him become his own person to determine what he believes is right. The man and the boy both only have eachother. Being that the father is the only person the boy has, it becomes his fathers job to protect his son and keep him safe. The Virgil always answers Dantes questions with wisdom and safely leads him through hell and purgatory, promising Dante’s survival. Virgil’s relationship to Dante can also be looked at as a fatherly figure, such as when Dante says, “he had laid his hand on mine with cheerful looks that gave me comfort” (3.9-11). The father son relationship is similar with the man and Virgil because they both act as guides to the boy and Dante, but the boy also serves as a moral guide for the man like Virgil does for Dante. The boy makes his father make the right decisions, even in the hardest and worst times. The man often questions his reason for living and if life is worth living after all the is worth suffering after everything he is experiencing and witnessing but continues of the road because of his son. Without his son, he would likely take his own life or lose the strength to survive. Most of Dante’s inspiration and the person he became came from Virgil. In The Road there is no purgatory or “paradise”.
Unlike Dante’s journey, because Dantes journey through hell has a positive end, but man and boys journey through “hell on earth” has no clear end on what could happen. It is definitely easier to have beliefs of an afterlife such as hell, purgatory, and heaven than to also wonder if the pain you are going through is worthless because their is no proof an actual afterlife even exists. When Dante and Virgil arrive at the end of purgatory, Virgil stays behind because his lifetime comes before Christ. When the man and the boy were near the end of the road, the man dies. Neither Dante or the boy could have completed their journey without their helpful guide, and their role ends once the journey’s end is in sight. Virgil must let go of Dante and trust him to Beatrice, just like the man has to let the boy go in and hope that he taught him well enough to trust the right people and do the right things to survive life on the road. When they came across another little boy in the road it gave the father hope that his son will be safe and that their was still a little good left in the world, the son says, “But who will find him if he‟s lost? Who will find the little boy?” To which the father replies, “Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again” (281). These are the last words the father says before he dies that night, it showed a change in his attitude, which he had planned to shoot his son before could be raped or eaten by the “bad guys.”
The message he gives his son about the boy they say implies that the father believes the words to be true of his own son. The father couldn’t survive because he was too old and weak. He had been suffering from a cough. His age prevented him from completing the journey to the coast, just as Virgils past situation prevents him from completing the journey to paradise. Neither the man or Virgil can experience the end of the journey but, through Dante and the boy, they can. Although The Road ends shorty after the man’s death when the boy meets the strangers, his sons strength to continue of the road gives him hope for the world because his father’s wisdom has been passed onto him, and gives him a chance at survival.