The Road by Cormac McCarthy – re-writing the narrator:
First Person Narration:
“I pushed the cart and my boy and I 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 on my shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley , I saw the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and Precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? I said. My boy nodded. We set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, we were each others worlds.”
Second Person Narration:
“You pushed the cart, you and the boy carrying 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 you saw a still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore there was a burden of dead reads. Are you okay? You asked. The boy nodded. You set out together along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, you were each other’s entire worlds.”
If McCarthy had chosen the third person limited point of view, think about the difference between telling this story from the boy’s POV or the man’s.
It could be really interesting to see the story from the boys point of view, just to see his emotional response to what seems to be a tense or dangerous world. But I wonder if the world would seem limited by the boys vocabulary, would we end up feeling like we missed the depth provided by an adult perspective?
I think told from the man’s perspective we would miss some of the description or scene setting provided by the omniscient narration. The extract says that the man and the boy were ‘each other’s world entire’, so I feel that from the man’s perspective we hear a lot of thoughts and considerations for the boy and visa versa.
What impact does changing the narrative angle have on the story? Why do you think McCarthy decided to use an omniscient narrator?
I’m surprised by how different the story feels told from different narrative angles. The first person narrative feels very close, like you’re up seeing everything through the eyes of the man and it makes the story feel a little predictable. The second person narration seems to have the effect of adding more distance, it reads as though you’re hearing an older person re-living or recounting a past experience. I think the effect is that it makes you less involved in or concerned with how the story unfolds. I wonder if McCarthy chose to use the omniscient narrator because it gives you a broad sweep of the landscape or things around the characters whilst closely tracking their movement. I think it gives the effect of watching their development intently, perhaps because you care but without getting so close as to intervene. I think the slight distancing from the inner thoughts or emotions or perspective of the characters helps the reader to keep tolerating a story set in such a bleak world.