Attaining happiness is the ultimate goal of most individuals. In their lives, several people have happiness in the form of love and hope which they gain through the support of family members and dear ones, but they fail to acknowledge such aspects of life until they are stripped of everything and their world is completely destroyed, at which point they realize that love and hope are the only sources of happiness that we can rely on. As proven in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse, the aspects of hope and love play key roles in the survival of the individuals during difficult circumstances.
Despite the difficulty of a situation, the hope of achieving a better life, and the love shared with those around us become the main focus in life. Throughout their novels, Cormac McCarthy and Jim Crace expound the fact that when individuals are placed in desperate situations, they depend on hope and love to provide them with a purpose to continue their journey, otherwise allowing destruction to prevail.
In both The Road and The Pesthouse, the survivors remain hopeful despite the negative events that occur. The survivors act as if losing the purpose of their journey, would result in their demise. Firstly, the reliance on hope is clearly displayed in The Road, when the boy’s father remains hopeful, even after being in a life-threatening situation. After being chased out of an abandoned home by the “bad guys”, the boy becomes doubtful and asks his father,
“What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.
Are we going to die?
Instead of telling the boy that there is a possibility of death, he remains hopeful by telling him that survival is assured. By making a promise, the father passes his hope onto his son. The promise made highlights the purpose of the man, which is to ensure that they have enough resources to survive. It is this purpose and hope of dodging death that gives them the strength to continue on their journey. If the father and son feared death and were hopeless, they would be unable to continue on their course without succumbing to destruction. Furthermore, the father displays hope even after suffering through sickness and starvation and he encourages his son to have faith. After falling sick, the boy has a bad dream which causes him to be pessimistic when his father tells him to “‘Listen to me,’ he said, ‘when your dreams are of some world that never was or some world that never will be, and you’re happy again, then you’ll have given up.
And if you give up then you’ll have no chance of living. Do you understand? And you can’t give up, I won’t let you.'”(159). The explicit statement that there is no chance of life without hope, proves that hope plays a large part in the survival of the father and son. The man’s advice to his son implies that dreams display idealism and he is afraid that this might cause the boy to give up on reality. Therefore he tries to keep the boy hopeful in order to ensure his survival. Without the hope that the father maintains and provides for the son, they would lose their will to live. This is not only true in The Road, but in The Pesthouse as well. After experiencing a ruined America, and having to leave his brother behind on his journey to Europe, the character of Franklin is able to maintain hope. When resting, he “…could imagine striking out to claim a piece of long-abandoned land and making home in some old place, some territory begging to be used.
Going westward, he would go free.” (35). Despite the negative things that have occurred in Franklin’s life he is still able to continue his journey solely through faith which establishes his purpose, which is to go west, and imagining how much better life will be there when he arrives. In addition, the character of Margaret is forced to maintain hope when diagnosed with a sickness and placed in isolation. When Franklin finds Margaret, and she begins to cry, he tells her that she has to have “…hope of all the paradise beyond where there’d be no ague or calenture, no tick disease or cholera, no canker or malaria”(89). It is because of Franklin’s hope that he is able to find Margaret, and because of this very hope he is able to bring her on the journey to the East without fear.
Hope provides him with the goal of travelling east where the conditions are better, and with this hope he is able to save the life of Margaret. In this way, the hope that the father is able to maintain in order to survive and travel to the south, relates to the hope Franklin possesses in order to survive and travel to the east, both individuals having a purpose. The son being doubtful about situations relates to Margaret being unsure of her condition and if she will survive. The father provides hope to the son just as Franklin provides hope to Margaret. Ultimately both the father and Franklin go far on their journeys. Therefore, it is the hope and purpose of the characters that keep them going on their journey despite rough obstacles they endure.
Juxtaposed, throughout both novels, is the everlasting love and relationships the characters share, which provide them with a purpose to continue on their journey. To begin, in The Road, when the man begins to lose faith, he thinks of his son and is reassured of his reason for living. For instance, when the man is thinking of life and in doubt, the author describes,
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.”(63).
This proves that despite the hardship he bears, and the harsh living conditions he endures, the man is willing to suffer for his son. It shows that his son is the one thing he has, and suggests that if the man did not have his son, he would have probably let himself die, thus proving that the man’s love for his son is his purpose for living. In the same way, when out in the cold without any anyone but each other the man displays the meaning of his love for his son. When outside in the cold, with barely any blankets and nothing but a tarp, the father, “…held the boy close to him. So thin. My heart, he said. My heart. But he knew that if he were a good father still it might well be as she had said. That the boy was all that stood between him and death” (pg.29).
Evidently, the father’s love for his son is so strong that without it he would willingly lose his life. Likewise, in The Pesthouse, the love that Franklin and Margeret share becomes their reason for living and the sole cause of their journey. After spending day and night together sailing east towards Europe, the love that Franklin feels for Margaret grows greatly.
When they are forced to bond, and take care of one another, “their wariness of each other is replaced by deep trust and an intimacy neither one has ever experienced before… it was with her that he was uncompromisingly optimistic, and without her he felt no hope at all.”(177). Franklin’s love for Margaret demonstrates that it is because of the love between them that he has hope, and without that love his hope would deteriorate, meaning that his journey would come to an end. Furthermore, when Margaret and Franklin are forced to separate, the importance of their love is revealed. At the moment Margaret and Franklin must leave each other, Franklin’s love for her is described,
“With her company, now, for a few moments, despite the awful immensity of his troubles, he could still pretend to be an optimist. In that imagined brightness, he could picture, beyond the nighttime and the trees, beyond the horses and the men, a place for greater safety… she is my safety, and without her there is no safety” (180). It is because of the love between the two, that life seems to have a purpose, and if this purpose is taken away, then their journey ends.
Once again, it is clear that without love there is no reason to seek more of the world, which is displayed in The Road as the man sees his son as the only thing thing he has and is willing to sacrifice for him, just as Franklin sees there to be no hope in the world without Margaret and is willing to sacrifice everything for her. Just as the man sees his son as the only reason to live, Franklin’s will to live depends on his love for Margaret. Thus, both McCarthy and Crace demonstrate that love is the driving force of survival, regardless of the present situation.
In conclusion, both novels, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, attest to the fact that hope of a better life and future, and love for another are crucial to survival. When placed in difficult situations, individuals tend to rely on hope and love to provide them with a purpose for living, and without these aspects of life, destruction is imminent. In reality, many individuals pursue happiness without realizing that they already possess it, as the majority of people overlook the value of the love and hope they already have in their lives. It is only when in dystopia that people realize how important vital love and hope are to survival.