Today in discussion a comment really piqued my interest: there is no conflict in the story. I would have to respectfully disagree because aside for the external conflicts like their hunger, lack of a stable shelter, and the harsh elements, there are deep internal conflicts battling inside the father.
Some conflicts we already see include:
- Memories of the past – His reminiscing of olden days gives us a taste of what life like in contrast to the misery and pain he and his son are going through right now. These flashbacks show that his mind is not completely ready to let go of the past, and he is afraid what might lie in the road ahead of them, so he clings on to the little remaining humanity that is left – his memories. This is evident when they go into the father’s old home and have this exchange: “We should go, Papa, [the son said]. Yes, the man said. But he didnt.”
- His wife – She is a recurring memory and is clearly one that affects both the son and the father
- Apocalyptic transition – The clear obstacles of an apocalyptic world are lack of the basic necessities, but what I mean by this transition is that the man knows how the world was like before, but the son does not. This difference in knowledge is a conflict because while the son was born into this new world, the man must carry the burden of knowing what was lost. It’s almost a blessing that the son does not know the old world because he now doesn’t have to remember and reopen old scars as his father does.
- Safety (and comfort) of his son – Although he is concerned about his son’s safety, he also realizes the world they live in is unforgivable, so he asks himself if he would have the strength to kill his own son when the time comes. This is implied on page 29 when he asks himself if he could ‘do it’: “He watched the boy sleeping. Can you do it? When the time comes? Can you?”
These very real, personal, and ethical conflicts just draw us into this heart-wrenching story. That is why many people did not find this “plodding” story boring. Now I’m just anxious to see their journey unfold as they continue to the end of their road.