Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road confronts readers with a question: what is there to live towards after apocalypse? McCarthy locates his protagonists in the aftermath of the world’s fiery destruction, dramatizing a relationship between a father and a son, who are, as McCarthy puts it, “carrying the fire.” This essay asserts that the body carrying the fire is a sacred, incandescent body that connects to and with the world and the other, unifying the human and the divine. This essay will consider the body as a sacred connection in The Road. Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics and Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic approach will help to explore what is sacred. In addition, their works elucidate the body as a present site of human connection and sacredness while calling attention to what is glaringly absent yet hauntingly present in McCarthy’s text: the mother. In the aftermath of destruction, primitive, sacred connections become available through the sensual body, highlighting what is at stake in the novel: the connection of body and spirit. The essay will attempt to show that McCarthy’s rejection of a redemptive framework, or hope in an otherworldly reality, shrouds spirit in physicality symbolized by the fire carried by the body. This spirit offers another kind of hope, one based on the body’s potential to feel and connect to the other. The thought and works of Ricoeur and Kristeva will broaden a reading of McCarthy’s novel, especially as a statement about the unification of body and spirit, contributing a multidimensional view of a contemporary problem regarding what sustains life after a cataclysmic event.


Boehme, Jacob. The Six Theosophic Points. Trans. John Rolleston Earle. 1620. Whitefish: Kessinger Legacy Reprints, 1992. Print.

Clément, Catherine, and Julia Kristeva. The Feminine and the Sacred. Trans. Jane Marie Todd. New York: Columbia UP, 2001. Print.

Cox Miller, Patricia. “Visceral Seeing: The Holy Body in Late Ancient Christianity.” The Journal of Early Christian Studies 12 (2004): 391-411. Print.

Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Orlando: Harcourt, 1959. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretations of Dreams. Trans. A. A. Brill. New York: Macmillan, 1913. Print.

Heraclitus of Ephesus. Fragments. Trans. T. M. Robinson. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1987. Print.

The Jewish Study Bible. Ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

Jung, Carl. Symbols of Transformation. Trans. R. F. C. Hull and Gerhard Adler. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977. Print.

Kristeva, Julia, Hatred and Forgiveness. Trans. Jeanine Herman. New York: Columbia UP, 2010. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. “Joyful Revolt: A Conversation with Julia Kristeva.” Hope: New Philosophies for Change. By Mary Zournazi. New York: Routledge, 2001. 64-77. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. New Maladies of the Soul. Trans. Ross Guberman. New York: Columbia UP, 1995. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Tales of Love. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1987. Print.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage, 2006. Print.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Ricoeur, Paul. “Christianity and the Meaning of History, Progress, Ambiguity, and Hope.” The Journal of Religion 32 (1952): 242-53. Print.

Ricoeur, Paul. “Fatherhood: From Phantasm to Symbol.” Trans. Robert Sweeney. Conflict of Interpretations. Ed. Don Ihde. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1974. 468-97. Print.

Ricoeur, Paul. Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination. Trans. David Pellauer. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995. Print.

Ricoeur, Paul. The Rule of Metaphor. Trans. Robert Czerney. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Ricoeur, Paul. Symbolism of Evil. Trans. Emerson Buchanan. Boston: Beacon, 1967. Print.

First Page


Last Page