On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Six
The Road
By Cormac McCarthy

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

~Romans 5:3–4

Chapter Six of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines the virtue of hope with examples drawn from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  In this continuance of the theological virtues, we consider our future. In many ways, our world seems to be teetering on the edge of apocalypse.   

As Karen wrote

Apocalyptic stories, whether in the form of novels, film, or television, have experienced a resurgence in recent years. On the publication of The Road in 2006, one news story explained the rise of this genre: “The world feels more precariously perched on the lip of the abyss than ever, and facing those fears through fiction helps us deal with it. These stories are cathartic as well as cautionary. But they also reaffirm why we struggle to keep our world together in the first place. By imagining what it’s like to lose everything, we can value what we have.” Of course, “what we have” is, too often, not enough. The Road, perhaps accidentally, reveals this very thing, even as a secular apocalypse.

What can a postapocalyptic world reveal about our own world and the human condition?

On Reading Well


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life