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A Socialist Emerging from the Ashes

by Griffin Starkey, VI Form

In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road, the boy, having grown up on the roads of the ashy wasteland that once was the United States, feels pity towards those who possess less than he does, thus developing a radical socialistic stance. It is his responsibility as a survivor to revive the world, or in the words of the boy’s father, “You have to carry the fire” (McCarthy 278). He must rid the new world of the darkness of anarchy. The boy claims he does not know how, but his father assures him that he does. Thus, should he survive the arduous trek south and become a leader in the ‘new’ old world, he will jettison what his father knows as the United States’ abysmal, asymmetrical political system. Socioeconomic differences cause tension. Those at the top often feel guilty about those at the bottom (or do not care about the bottom at all), and those at the bottom are jealous of those at the top. Tension creates an unproductive atmosphere for a complex idea such as a modern society. The United States copes with the divide among its citizens in an exceptional manner, though in a post-apocalyptic atmosphere this array of feelings could be exacerbated tenfold. Such vast inequality breeds systemic problems.

As the boy and his father venture on the road as “the good guys,” the twosome encounter other survivors of the apocalypse. In these circumstances, the son and father succumb to a scavenger-like mentality. The boy, however, feels deep sorrow when he and his father have more food and supplies. The divide in the United States among the poorest and wealthiest Americans mirrors this situation. In the scene where the father and the son track down the man who stole their cart, the boy’s sensitivity is particularly amplified. The boy attempts to force a feeling of guilt onto his father by saying, “Just help him, Papa. Just help him… He was just hungry, Papa. He’s going to die” (259). Despite the fact that the other survivor stole all of the father and son’s possessions, the boy wants to give him some food and his clothes back. Having never witnessed the United States’ faulty political slant that promotes ‘total’ economic freedom, the boy has the ability to create his own political positions. With this power, he would be able to ensure that no one would go hungry like the thief in the novel.

The socioeconomic divide among its citizens heavily burdens the United States. According to PBS.org, a 2011 study evaluated America’s wealth distribution. The top 20 percent wealthiest Americans possessed over 80 percent of the total nation’s wealth, while the other 80 percent must struggle with a sixth of the upper class’ wealth (Solman).  While the government attempts to tackle this predicament with implementations such as a graduated tax bracket, the real problem lies solely in the form of government, not the policies. Although these types of issues would be irrelevant in post-apocalyptic circumstances, upon the rebuilding of the world, it would be vital to start over with a concerted focus on equality. The boy would be a perfect proponent in this creation because he was never tainted by the previous world, so his slate is even cleaner. Socialistic cities in history, such as Denmark, have experienced much less corruption throughout their society due to the overall sense of equality. Poverty levels are extremely low, and the quality of life in these regions can be considered higher than that of countries such as the United States. At the brink of the new civilization, the boy could begin anew without the burden of the past. There would certainly be hostiles, and because of this, a socialistic stance would limit the need for these types of individualistic attitudes altogether. Hostiles would want to fend for themselves only, stealing all of the other “civil” citizens supplies, tools, and food. If the boy implements socialism, economic and, subsequently, social equality would be a moot topic in everyday political blather. Everyone left (and born) in his new society would possess, roughly, the same amount of food, clothing, shelter, and protection.

Socialism is ideal for the boy at the beginning of the post-apocalyptic society. Unnerved feelings brought by the fact that he may have more or less than his fellow survivors will vanish, fostering his confidence to tenaciously carry the fire.

Griffin Starkey, VI Form, is from Warwick, RI and lives in Coe.  He has two older sisters who are alumni of St. Mark’s.  Griffin plays on the golf team with a 9 handicap and loves the Bruins.

Works Cited:

McCarthy, Cormac. The road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

Solman, Paul . ” A Broader View of America’s Wealth Inequality | PBS NewsHour .”  PBS: Public Broadcasting    

      Service. N.p., 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

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