Analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” ending (film)

8 Jul

Here are some major spoilers, so if you have not seen the film please click away from this entry 🙂

The Road Poster 2009

The Road (2009)

Ok, in a nutshell, I think the kid is fucked, and the ending is NOT good. Here is why.

The first thing I thought when I saw the dog with the family was “oh *beep* They are not only cannibals, but some of the best”

Why? The boy and the father could BARELY stay alive on crumbs and cans, yet here is a family of FOUR and a DOG looking pretty healthy. The man had plenty of ammo. Even the dog looked happy. Keeping a dog alive is a LUXURY afforded only to those with plenty of food in a world like that. The entire movie emphasized how scarce food was.

The dog would be useful for tracking HUMANS since it seems most other animals have died. They even admitted to have tracked the boy and his father for a long while.

A group that big and that healthy must have stayed alive by being the meanest, cruelest, merciless bunch around. This is how species survive, the ones who are the strongest and baddest survive and breed.

What they probably do/did is follow a small group like the boy and his father, wait for them to encounter other people and them watch from a distance to see what happens. Then when the boy and father leave, they can decide to kill the humans the father and boy encountered and eat them, or if the group is too big and dangerous, they can avoid them.

Notice too in the film when the boy asks the man if he is a good guy, his eyes shift around, indicating he is lying. The children with the man and the woman do NOT look happy.

If they are following the boy and father, why did they not appear when the man lay dying to help the boy then? Why wait until they were SURE he was dead? I think it is because they knew he would never trust them or allow the boy to trust them.

Now if it is true that they are bad-ass cannibals, why didn’t they kill the kid right away? Why make him trust them? My guess: sex. Why else would they keep that many children? Are we sure the children are actually theirs?

I think those that see the ending as happy are more naive than the boy in the movie.

As for the film itself overall, I felt it was solid and give it a 8/10. (I take away some points because I felt it was too long, it could have benefited from tighter editing)


142 Responses to “Analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” ending (film)”

  1. Jeremy July 9, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    Thanks for the comment! And I got a kick out of reading your interpretation b/c it was literally 180 degrees from mine… That’s why I love movies like this. I wouldn’t really call myself naive for getting the hopeful vibe at the end — I actually think the main reason I did was I think I heard McCarthy dedicated the book to his son, so it didn’t ever cross my mind that he’d have led the boy to his doom in such a way… But obviously up for some fun debate. Anyway, great blog here, and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Eugene July 10, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    I’d have made the ending with the boy shooting the man, taking his gun, and the amo, and continuing down the road alone.

  3. skocko July 15, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    I agree with you, I searched the web looking for the same interpretation of the ending as mine (and yours) and couldn’t find it. Everybody thinks there is an American dream family out there ready to take another useless mouth to feed. One thing I don’t agree with you is that they kept the kid alive for sex. It may be that, but I believe that’s to keep him fresh. They move alot and need harmless, loyal and naive persons (kids) to follow them around. If they had to lock them up, they would be tied to a small area of operation.

    A digression: There was a debate about compassion and cannibals in this forum: In the fist encounter with cannibals, there was a legless bad guy, showing even cannibals take care of their own.

    • bboyneko July 15, 2010 at 9:14 am #

      Well, maybe not sex..I was just wondering what their (evil) motivation would be for taking a child on like that. I’m not convinced they were good people.

      • Pierre Bosen October 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        The family at the end’s motivation for taking on the boy was that in order for their next generation to survive, they would need to find a healthy mate for their young daughter to have children with when she was grown up enough, since if the girl and her brother were to procreate, there would be insufficient genetic diversity and high chances for birth defects. The family needed the boy for their future lineage to continue after they were gone.

    • Damian August 8, 2011 at 12:48 am #

      There was not a legless bad guy(at least in the book). There was a partially EATEN naked victim locked in a storage room with cauterized “stumps” they were eating them piece by piece and keeping them alive as they had to space it out!

  4. wardeg August 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Maybe the end means that the boy has given up without his father. When they are in the church the man says that it is good to have bad dreams because that means you are still fighting to stay alive and when you dream about good things you have given up. The end seemed surreal and happened right as the father died, so that could be be a GOOD dream/hallucination similar to the one the boy had before when he thought he saw another boy when they were in the house.

    Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about this and it just has a really happy ending.

    • Jerry Dugan February 14, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      I am leaning towards this explanation. The family seemed too good to be true, and I think the mom and daughter were the pair killed in the field earlier in the movie.

    • Dan Brumbaugh January 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

      I know that this is an old thread but I just recently saw the film, and had the same interpretation– that in the face of overwhelming hopelessness, the boy had become delusional.

      It’s really the only explanation that makes sense. In addition to the “bad dream/hope” vs “good dream/dispair” allusion above, the boy had been seeing and hearing a boy and a dog that the father hadn’t, and it seems beyond belief that a family could have followed them unseen for so long. Moreover, the filmmakers would have just appended such a pollyanna ending to this otherwise unrelenting distopia. It would have just defied the whole “logic” of the story.

  5. tommyp August 22, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    That family had to def be cannibals. When that black guy stole their cart and then they tracked him down and took it back from him, making him give up all his clothes as well. Later down the road the son talked his dad into going back and giving him his clothes back with some food. Surprisingly he was no where to be found, and when that family said they were following the dad and son that tells me they probably killed and ate the black guy by the time they went back to look for him. Plus I agreed that a family that big with a dog could not have survived the way they did without having to eat some humans

  6. BemaniAK September 6, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Think about it, the Father questioned people whether or not they were following them, and the Old Man asked if they were following him.
    It’s probably a very well-known and common thing for people like these to follow others as unintentional scouts and frontline shields, you might say, let them go first and deal with whatever’s ahead, then if they’re too weak to continue, take them and their belongings for yourselves.

    The kids could be lucky saps who got asked by the Man and Woman to help them appear innocent in exchange for their lives and a cut of their loot.

  7. Melanie September 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    I disagree! Well I haven’t watched the movie but in the book at the end the man does ask the son if he has the fire or something along those lines. There would be no reason to ask this unless they were good guys and even if they were bad guys i doubt they’d eat him because there would have been no reason to ask that question then….

    • Wow really? November 14, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      Are you 5? Just because someone is initially nice to you that means that they’re not going to eat you when you’re the only food they’ve seen in weeks? That’s the dumbest analysis I’ve ever heard, and if you haven’t watched the movie your opinion is useless here anyway. That did not happen in the movie. The boy asked the stranger if he still carries the fire, and the stranger looks confused and says “yeah sure” because the boy is hesitant about going with him.

  8. Chelsea October 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    I’ve recentely finished the book, and watched the movie minutes after I put the book down. I agree with the cannibal theory, HOWEVER, I believe that the “family” was in connected with the thief. In the novel, The Man makes an important observation: the Thief is missing all fingers on his right hand, and he concludes that the Thief must’ve been an outcast from one of the cannibal communes 9perhaps his missing extremities are the result of some kind of punishment inflicted by the commune?) This deformity is adpated into a missing thumb on the Thief AS WELL AS the man with the family. See the relation? McCarthy does not connect the shady man with the thief, as to leave the reader to make his own conclusion. The film makes it a bit more obvious that the shady man and his “family” could possibly be connected with this “commune” in some way, thus making them evil.

    I also believe that the shady man and his wife intend to try and mold the children into rutheless cannibals, to increase their numbers and chance of survival. Evil breeds evil?

    • Alex September 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      I personally believe that in the movie McCarthy does show these hands but it is more subtle but i know that i picked up on it and as for the theory of it being a commune of punishment why would the cannibal clan not just eat them why let a meal go? the missing fingers might be any number of things possibly they started to nibble on their own fingers. as for the conclusion it is left open but if you listen to the end of the music during the credits there is a point when you can hear talking and the dog barking in the background and then the music picks up in a somber tone don,t know if this is significant but is just an observation

  9. Teddie Stubblefield October 23, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    Hmm, well your idea is like a conspiracy theory, when you think about it it makes sense but when you really really look at it, its ridiculous. In the book the ammo was reloaded with wax as a sealer. The shady man/veteran is upfront with the boy about being able to stay or go and if they re hungry enough to eat a kid they wouldve ate the mans corpse, also in the book it was three days after he died that the veteran showed up. Sex? with a red headed firecrotch like he had in the movie i wouldnt be lookin for sex in a twelve year old boy and no kid would be happy if they had to live like that. my theory is they knew the man was dying and new not to bother him for fear of what he might do to the child thinking he was outgunned knowing it was the end, just my .02

  10. hawk November 13, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    i think that the family in the ending are a figment of the boys imagination, just as when the father was chasing his son when he claimed that there was a boy. also when the son says that he hears a dog when they are in the fallout shelter the dad claims that it isnt a dog. and when his father, the male role model that he looked up to dies, he put an imaginary model into his life. it stated earlier when the father and son are walking that the boy would always imagine what the south would be like and that there would be children. it seemed like everything he had wanted finally appeared in his life.

    • bboyneko November 15, 2010 at 10:45 am #

      I never thought of that!! Very good interpretation. I think just about everyone agrees there is something ‘off’ about the family and the ending and your explanation explains it all very well.

      • bubble November 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

        Commenting on the “too good to be true” aspect of the above comment; compared to the stark, gritty reality of the rest of the film, the ending, as this thread reveals, jars with the viewer (or reader). I tend to view endings like this as a storytelling device, a “Deus Ex Machina” (God in the Machine), which concludes the story when it really has no conclusion that is acceptable to a reader. The reader and author both know that, were this real life, this would not happen, the boy would be left and, most probably, die very soon after the ending of the book. The fact that this does not happen, for me serves to highlight the fact that it should have more than if the author had written it that way.

        For other examples of this see ‘Children of Men”(the boat wouldn’t have come) and in some ways “Garden State” (I don’t think he would have seen the girl again.

      • me August 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

        Okay, I just saw this movie. I had never heard of it or read the book, but I love Viggo Mortensen as an actor so I checked it out. I think there is more to the ending than people realize. As I was watching the credits I heard a conversation going on in the background — something seemingly innocent but as several have noted here, the fairy-tale ending is highly (read completely) improbable. The conversation involved a kid on a bicycle, someone leaving and saying they would be “back in five minutes”, a dog barking… My theory? The man and the woman went around looking for kids to sell. Like others have noted, how could the woman at the end say that “we don’t have to worry anymore”? Please. The only reason another mouth to feed wouldn’t be a concern is if she and the man are going to profit off of the kids. Also, whoever directed the survivalist scenes needs some assistance, if you ask me. I mean at one point the father is looking around a cellar for some food — using a lighter as a light source! Really? Using a butane-fueled lighter as a light source when fuel is in scarce supply? There were other obvious glitches like that too. On the whole, I like this movie. It was haunting and the acting was great, especially by the kid. Just totally unrealistic.

  11. Andrew Brannigan November 17, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    I realise that this is your personal analysis of the ending of the film, but it’s important to look at the clues in the novel as well. One of the first points that is raised is that the veteran and his family most likely wouldn’t have survived without resorting to cannabilism. I find that to be exaggerated for a few reasons: Number one, the veteran is armed and more importantly, he is equipped with a good amount of ammunition. McCarthy would have been telling quite a different story had the man had a fully armed pistol. One of the biggest symbols in the story is the gun, and the fact that initially, the man thinks it would be best to retain the pair of bullets he has in case they should need to dispatch themselves, lest they face a horror worse than death. This is clearly illustrated in his frustration upon using his next-to-last bullet to kill the cannibalistic roadrat they meet in the woods. The veteran, however, seems to be adept at manufacturing his own ammo (‘the ends were sealed with candlewax’) so he wouldn’t have nearly as much hesitation scouring the more dangerous locations for any sustinence. Number two, the presence of the dog doesn’t necessarily point to the veteran using the animal to hunt people. It’s more than likely that the dog depends on what the veteran can provide for its own survival and it’s kept alive simply because it serves as a security for the veteran and his family. While they sleep at night, the dog’s presence must provide a peace of mind that the man and the boy could only dream about. Many people have mentioned that in the film, the veteran, much like the thief they encounter, is missing his thumb. Again, this is complete artistic license on the part of the director. In the book, it’s made quite clear that the thief was an outcast from one of the communes and the fingers of one hand had been cut away. Why Hillcoat chose to mirror that in the supposed hero of the story is a mystery to me, but I don’t think that it’s meant as a sign that the veteran isn’t what he seems to be. Another point raised here is about the veteran’s facial expression when the boy inquires as to whether or not he’s ‘one of the good guys.’ In the novel, the veteran is described as “a veteran of old skirmishes” and it’s said that one of his cheekbones had been broken and caused the eye on that side of his face to wander, it also gave him a crooked smile. This tells me that it really was a leap of faith for the boy to believe that he found “a good guy.’ The veteran certainly didn’t look the part of a saviour. As for the appearance of the veteran’s wife and children and that they didn’t ‘look happy’, why in the world would they? Imagine the horrors they’ve seen. Imagine the constant struggle for survival when there are 4 mouths to feed (plus a dog) compared to that of the man and his son. To me, the biggest open-ended question is this: In the film, the man and the boy hear a dog outside whilst hiding in the bunker. Are we supposed to infer that the veteran and his family had been tracking the man and his son from at least that point? If that’s the case, they would have seen their hospitality to “Ely”, they would have seen the man attacked by the man with the bow in the shoreside town and they would have been there when the thief went off with everything they had. Of all the questions raised by the film version, for me, that’s the strongest anomaly and I can’t tell just what Hillcoat was trying to say with that detail. However, I highly doubt that a weathered, seasoned survivalist like the veteran, would have put on a ruse to trick a starving, scared, mourning little boy when he obviously could have done whatever he liked no matter what the boy’s attitude toward him had been. In the novel, the conclusion is the boy meeting the woman and her talking to him about God. But to dig deeper, the veteran has a daughter, and with the addition of the boy, humanity is given an opportunity to create a new life that’s borne out of humanity rather than depravation. The charred and headless infant corpse that they come across in the novel was ommitted from the film because it would have been too heavy an image. Although there are a great many viewpoints that one can take from the film, personally, I would have to say that the veteran, despite his haggard appearance and questionable mannerisms, was intended to be the same hero that he was amde out to be in the book.

    • Jerry Dugan February 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

      Thanks, I was hoping for an answer from someone who read the book. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the movie ending and haven’t read the book. This puts it all into perspective.

  12. sia November 21, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    read the book

  13. weedproductinc November 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    I just read the whole thread and i completely disagree with the OP. I didn’t read the book but i just saw the movie, and all in all, I have to say i agree 100% with the post that is 2 above me, Andrew Brennigan. People love to draw mysterious, unnecessary, over-thought-out conclusions that don’t exist. I mean do people really think the boy dreamt all that up? No damn way. Also, if they were cannibals, why not let the boy continue to wander alone and why not continue to track him and see what happens to him, and if he gets attacked by a smaller group of cannibals, take over them? The cannibal theory is stupid imho…… People just like to overthink stuff and be pessimistic. I think this ending was absolutely meant as a happy ending….. and that’s that. ALthough to be honest an ending where he somehow gets to the coast, sails over to europe, and finds some form of civilization would have satisfied people looking for a humanity-redeemed ending a lot more. This way yeah sure the boy and his immediate new family survives, but most likely humanity is still screwed.

    • Andrew Brannigan December 21, 2010 at 8:07 am #

      Thanks for the kind words regaring my posting. I just want to say that although I completely agree with you, there’s one small detail that seems to point to a small ray of light for the future of humanity. The Veteran has a little girl. With the addition of the man’s son to his family, humanity is given the opportunity to create a new life that’s born out of the ashes of the civilized world. There were a few scenes in the book that were far too graphic to make the cut for the film, they mention that the primary goal of giving birth is to consume the infant. But the man’s son and the Veteran’s daughter can create a life that will stand a chance in a heartless world. There is no mention of the man and the boy finding anything alive anywhere in the novel, save for a few mushrooms. The scene with the beetle in the film was pure artistic license on the part of the director. I must agree with you that ultimately, the message of both the book and the film is that there is little hope for humanity at large, but possibly, the boy can have the opportunity to raise a son of his own. I think it’s important to note that the film doesn’t stress as much as the novel that the primary (and practically the only) source of sustenance left for those who don’t resort to cannibalism comes from canned goods. Therefore, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone is left alive outside of industrialised countries that stockpile loads of canned and non-perishible foods. People who had previously derived sustenance from the earth itself are completely out of luck after the cataclysm. Of course those goods won’t last forever, but it’s a possibility that the cannibals will finish each other off to the extent where there won’t be such competition for whatever scant supply is left. I would highly recommend reading the book. As horrible a depiction of a dreadful future it is, I think there’s a lot of warmth to the story as well and McCarthy is just a brilliant writer. The film doesn’t hold a candle to the novel in any respect. Cheers.

      • thehappyhuskie July 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

        I know I am late to this, but one theory I’ve had why he was using a butane lighter and other events is that the man actually sucked at survival. He and his son had finally realized (prior to the beginning of the book) that they could not survive on their current lifestyle and had to set out to the ocean. A move that didn’t pay off and doesn’t really make sense.

        If you look carefully, the father makes a number of terrible survival errors making their situation on par with the average citizen. There are going to be those who achieve far better than others and this story is about an “everyman”

  14. Medina December 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Just watched the ending 5 times and never does the “vets” eyes wander when the kid ask if he is a good guy. They guy does pause and look around when the kid ask about the fire, but he follows that up with asking if the kid is a little messed up. As for them not revealing themselves, everyone is nervous, scared, and probably society has changed so much survival is more important than extra company. They man and boy would of never revealed themselves to a group no matter what, so why are we jumping to conclusions that this make the other family shady. Everyone is shady even the old man (Duvall). Now I will say this the boy that the son see’s while at his fathers home, is the same BOY!!! Why has no one else noticed this? They were following them… Check it… There are a ton of loose ends, just like no country but thats kind of what makes it great. You want more…

    Few notes:
    *Just noticed the woman is missing her thumb too, when she touches the kids face.
    *The healthy dog bothered me, however it is possible that dog helped them find food other than humans.

    Just some thoughts…

    • Pavel September 24, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      i noticed they it was the same boy, which is what made me think the son was imagining the family. But apparently that boy is not in the book.

  15. TroY December 13, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    I’ve seen this movie 6 times already. It’s one of the most thought provoking movie I’ve seen and it’s not for the ending, actually the ending is melancholic. I’m a pretty pessimistic guy and the worse case scenario I can think(since I have to entertain every possibility I guess) is they they might have experienced with cannibalism but perhaps now were finding ways to redeem themselves. She does tell the son(boy) while touching his face “you’re very lucky” if I’m not mistaken. Now that can mean many things, but again the very worst case scenario is that the family is on a road to redemption as well, and they found one very pure human being with the fire. However the more I see the movie the more I feel that they were just regular people, happy to have found a decent human being.
    As far as the movie goes there are very interesting concepts related to cannibalism which seems to be the plague of this world just like let’s say political corruption or ww2-holocaust and genocides are current plagues now. But cannibalism goes deeper into the root, because it essentially separates human beings into two large groups, the maneaters and the nonmaneaters and ironically the first trust each other as long as they’re alive, and the latter don’t trust anybody at all thus there’s no way of any meaningful interaction and basic group forming. Why do cannibals stick together, why do some people rather starve(not prefer to starve but STARVE because I feel that this is not a matter of preference) and others go straight ahead and eat people ? I believe that most of humanity at some point was cannibal to some degree, but slowly this changed. Just like Freud explains the sexual drivers towards parents with the the oedipal complex, there’s another complex that it is specific to the Mediterranean civilizations. This is related to the myth of Lycaon the powerful king of Arcadia who wanted to test if Zeus was omniscient, and tried to feed him his own son. Obviously Zeus found out and retaliated by turning Lycaon in a werewolf or so the story goes and killing all his children. This over the many centuries of civilizations has been imprinted in the heads of the people so as to these days not even consider cannibalism an option of worse case scenario. It is however been noted until recent times of cannibalism cases in Finland, Ukraine(famous for cannibalisms especially during WW2) and much of Russia(eating dead people) and other parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
    I’ve also read of such cases in Brazil in the jungles of Amazon, and of course the US as well. Cannibalism is treated at length in this book and movie of course and I’d give anything to ask the author why chose this. This theme was chosen not to scare anyone or disgust anyone, this treatment goes very deep in our historical long forgotten roots and has been written at considerable length in mythology, religion etc.

    • Kramer October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      You’ve read a lot, but not in detail. Anyone who studied current psychology or who got a psychology degree in the last 20 years knows that Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis has been widely discredited, and have been for decades. He’s an important figure in psychology mostly because his ideas caused so much controversy and debate. Don’t believe me? Read any modern scholarly works on psychology from the last 2 decades at a University or College.

      • Fools Gold June 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

        Untrue. I have 4 degrees including a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, including the study and practice of psychodynamic therapy. This is powerful material and powerful work.

  16. Victor C. January 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Oh wow, how could you kids not think about this.

    The kid hears or see’s the family, the father never does and flat out denies it at several points, except towards the middle of the film and on when he becomes paranoid.

    In the movie several times a sickly, most probably dying character is introduced, then either wanders off never to be seen again or they die. The family always shows up right before another character comes along, then they all vanish for sometime with only the family returning. It’s always a period of a few days to a week between signs of the family and a new character wandering off or dying. Around the time meat from an adult would last for five mouths, and it took them three days to approach the boy after his father died, despite the fact the boy mourned for a day without moving.

    Despite what some have said about the gun representing life, I believe the gun represented death, man’s fear, because all the man’s revolver did was hang over his head as a guillotine, more present and constant then the threat the cannibals of the world had against him. Only once in the story did he actually shoot someone, a wretched cannibal, but it was far from a heroic gun battle and all it did was leave him with one less bullet which meant another ocean of worry for him, and so the man’s revolver though proven to be useful still remained a near useless implementation of self-destruction until the end. Remember how well armed the veteran was, he was even called the veteran.

    Can you imagine living in that world and giving food to strangers?

    No wonder Robert Duvall’s character said he thought the boy was an angel.

    The entire story was really an allegory, the man, the human, his wife, humanity, and their son, good.

    As for the dog looking healthy, do you remember when they left that food out for the thief in case he came back?

    Man’s gift in goodness to a horrible world left to the dogs.

    The wife running out, humanity leaving man and what is good in the world alone, in the dead of night.

    The ending, it was the death of what is good by ignorance, in that hostile world the man in all his trying was never able to keep what was good, his son, safe from his son’s biggest fault, ignorance.

    If you pick the family’s words apart you will find major logical errors that probably weren’t the work of a crappy script. One of them is assuming the family was tracking the man and the boy since the scene in the bunker, because the woman says they have been following the boy for sometime. The family couldn’t have been tracking them from the bunker because that’s were the tracks would have had to end at that time. That means the family was either following the man’s tracks backwards, or they just kept going straight forward, which would have put them ahead of the man and the boy and made it impossible to guess where they were going the next day unless the family was watching them while staying ahead.

    The second is that those kids are their’s. We can pick apart all day that the kids were nervous, or unhappy, or this or that, but what you’re forgetting is that those are two brunette children with two red-headed ‘parents’.

    Third is the first visual encounter with the child in town. He may have been with the family at that point, but it’s doubtful for the reason that he runs away from the boy out of fear. If his father, the veteran, was there we can assume that they were already following the man and the boy, or it was this chance encounter that caused the family to follow them. Either way, there really was no reason not to approach the man and the boy now, as the veteran would have been so close as to just shout a greeting to find out if the man was a decent person, instead of spending around a month traveling over a wasteland.

    So, we can come to the conclusion due to the random boy’s poor survival skills the family picks him up and he tells them about the man and boy he saw and this was what caused the stalking that lasted the rest of the movie.

    Finally, the woman saying the boy was lucky. He was the smallest child including the ones they already found, they would have eaten him last.

  17. shane harman January 19, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    I have just been reading through your reviews and it seems that there is quite a diversion between what people think happened at the end of the movie and the end of the book. I have not read the book so can’t comment on that but the movie and book are separate entities so there can be no comparison as they tell two different stories. Surely the film is the directors ‘portrayal’ of what he believed to have happened in the book, his analysis, so to speak ?

    The movie – I don’t know what to think of the movie, I think the movie is simply trying to show the good and bad in everyone, even the person watching the movie as your own belief to ‘what you have watched unfold’ will depend on what kind of person you are i.e.. pessimistic or optimistic. The movie strives to ask you yourself ‘do you carry the fire’ ?

    I prefer to believe that in fact the boy did live and the world eventually turned back to a world we know. The bug for instance shows I believe shows that life does go on. I choose to think the family did follow the dad/boy for a good reason, to take him in, to give them a greater chance of survival, to give (in time) they children a greater chance of survival. A good group as opposed to an evil one, showing that good does eventually prosper over evil.

    I do think you could argue the film either way and you could never come to a conclusion. There is an explanation to go either way on this movie.

    The boy in the family is the boy which was seen earlier in the movie which does suggest the family may have been following them. Though I don’t think they were attempting to following them to eat the boy as they would of had plenty of chances to do so. Plus why take all that risk for one person, you would not put your whole family in all that danger just for one person. If as suggested they were following them would have seen the food in the bunker/shelter and could have stayed they if it was just food they wanted. Plus would you want to eat someone who has been round a dyeing man as the changes are what ever the dad had the boy may have also had !?!?!

    As for the dog, maybe they used it to detect intruders when they were travelling, it would be a handy tool ! Or maybe they simply found it and where keeping it as a last resort to eat once they ran out of food but i think its safe to say it wasn’t just a family pet !

    I think overall the film is just intended to show you how in adversity humanity does shine through, or is it just simply a way of showing you how you yourself perceive the world !!

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      If you don’t know what tot think of the movie, why are you writing this long dialog?

    • zombor November 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      I agree that ultimately this film was about optimism and pessimism, hope and despair. I think there’s a reason the ending was intentionally left ambiguous – it is up to the viewer to believe or not. It’s obvious from this thread that there were clues planted along the way that can be used to argue for various conclusions. This had to be intentional.

      I think the real point is that your interpretation of the ending says more about you than it does about the “true” intentions of the filmmakers. I think that was the point. The film is asking us to put ourselves into this world and figure out where we stand. Could we really maintain hope in the face of such a bleak reality? Can we continue to believe in goodness and hope when such things are damming to our own survival?

      Personally my interpretation is that the family is not real and that the boy, scared, alone and unprepared, manifested them in order to keep his promise to his father that he would keep the fire burning. I don’t think the question is whether or not I’m right. I think the real question I’m meant to ask is “what does this say about me?”

  18. Corry February 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    The family adopted him, says in the book they were good guys. The man with the guns was missing thumbs, that means he left a group of cannibals, probably sick of there ways and wanted to start over.

  19. Rockso February 17, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    You missed something. If you had read the book you would know that it mentions that outcasts from human communes have their fingers chopped off. This is referencd in the film: both the thief and the traveler at the end have no thumbs. Another clue to their evil intentions.

    Nevertheless…you are wrong. The film is a little vague, but the ending of the book is a little more upbeat. I don’t really feel like the film really did the ending justice, for this exact reason. It leaves things way too ambiguous. The book ending is ambiguous too, but it’s way more positive in that you feel like the boy is going to make it.

    • A February 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      The thumb thing is not in the book.

  20. Jonathon Wisnoski March 6, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Sounds about right, the second I saw that ending I knew it must be implying something worse then it was showing.
    At the very least it is the kids imagination, which does not seem quite at good a fit to me as your explanation.
    For me the best evidence that the family at the end is evil when when the man lied, the boy asks if he carries the flame and he responds like he has no idea what that means (which makes sense) and when pressed rescinds his previous confusion and states that yes he does carry the flame.

  21. Shan March 10, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    I didn’t feel that the ending was ambivalent or pessimistic. It was meant to be a ray of hope. It was a leap of faith by the boy, going against everything he had been taught. For me, it was a surprise at the end of a very dark and depressing film. We don’t know what will ultimately happen to the boy, but his actions were positive at the end. And the family he was with, in their actions they were positive.

    I feel that the film was about teaching a child the ways of the world – parenting in the worst of circumstances. It was about family. And at the end, we saw another strong example of family, fatherhood, and what adults can learn from children. That’s what I took from this fim.

  22. Jack March 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    read the book and you’ll know this is NOT true

  23. kyle March 29, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    All i have to say is that whether its a back up dog, good dog, bad dog, talking dog, or a dog that poops donuts, no people in their right mind would travel with a dog. You know how many times the dad and son would have been boned (guess that can mean several things) if they had a dog? dogs don’t shut up. Dogs don’t always listen or know how to hide. If you saw a dog next to me and ask what’s with the dog? I would say where the hell did that thing come from then I would eat it…..I don’t know what this means towards the end…..I’m just saying.

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      A dog is a dog is a dog. Dogs eat meat.

  24. Mack March 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    You guys need to read the book. The kids not only survives but relates how the woman is deeply religious. He talks about how she makes him pray a lot of time but he prefers just talking to his dad (imaging that his father is still there with him in spirit). The way its written suggests without any question that this relationship with the family continues well into the future. As for the dog, throughout history dogs are used to hunt for anything and everything. Its how the family survives, it uses the dog to find food.

    Also the book and the movie are very similiar, they diverge only in small insignificant ways. and honeslty I don’t think cannabilism would take root in the manner suggested in the book, its too much a of a plot device if you ask me. Anybody heard of hydroponics and setting up some small wind turbines to generate electricity. hello.

    • Kramer October 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

      Your thoughts are too rational for a place like this. They make too much sense!
      thank you!

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      What is there for a dog to hunt if there’s no animals remaining and there’s just people?

  25. Sam April 5, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    I think the boy gets ate. The way the veteran comes up to him and the first thing he asks, “Where the man you were with?” seems really fishy. Plus the dog picked up their scent at the bomb shelter and the Dad and Son probably cleaned out most the can food and put it in the cart.

    The Vet probably saw the cart tracks if he was a skilled tracker. Probably knew they took most the food and was following them, using the dog to track their scent. Plus their kids didn’t seem to want to get to know their new friend around their age. Don’t want to get emotionally attached to your meal.

    I guess I’m look’n at this from a realistic scenario. A family doesn’t track two people 50 miles just to ask them if they want to join their group. The reason the Vet didn’t shoot the kid right away was to gather intel on his fathers location. Once he found that out, he sweet talked the boy instead of wasting valuable ammunition.

    One last thing… The Vet tells the boy if he’s going out on his own, to “Stay off the roads”. The only reason I can think of for this comment is that tracking somebody on pavement is hard because.

    1. There’s no footprints on pavement, making tracking harder.

    2. The dog can’t pick the scent up off pavement as easily

    Of course the Vet could have simply plugged him the boy in the chest with the shotgun a few times when the boy lowers his pistol, but I don’t think he wanted to waste the ammo if he didn’t have too.

    • Kramer October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Option 1:
      they want to kill the boy for food. But if that’s the case, why not just kill the Dad? He has way more ‘meat” on him.

      Option 2:
      They will eat the Dad, but then also want to the boy too. Wrong. There’s only so much meat that that family can eat before it goes “bad”. They’re nomads without storage facilites. They could only cut up so many pieces of meat before carrying on with their own journey.

      • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        We don’t know much about the family at the end. You can’t kill the boy because – yes – the meat will go bad, as with the father.

  26. Roe April 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    There is no mention of the family having a dog in the book. Funny, eh?

  27. Arwen April 18, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    I think we as an society now think people can be master trickers. Therefore we use the cannibal theory in this movie or in the movie Let The Right One in the manipulation theory. Is this a happy ending? Probably not. We see the world is a state where starvation is abound. I can see where the healthy dog can be creepy. But if we live in such a world would we be reluntant to if possible have a guard dog ? Maybe they feed the dog any cannibals they fended off. I do find it interesting when asked how do I know you are one of the good guys the guy shifts his eyes when he says “you don’t. You just have to take a shot.” This isn’t a lie since the boy realy doesn’t have much of a way to tell if he is a good guy or not. Yes, people eyes usualy move thier eyes when they lie. In this case it may mentaly mean “good guy and bad guys? I do what I have to so I can survive” Therefore the ending can have two meanings. Maybe they use the dog to hunt people and are cannibals. One cannibal theory ties them with the house cannibals since in the book they seen the boy and dog after that incident. Or manybe this guy was raised by and is a survivalist and was in the minority community with the thinking of preparing for anything imaginable.

  28. Bubba April 18, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    I think the key thing with the veteran at the end is that he clearly tells the boy that if he doesn’t want to come with them then he should go on his way but gives the stark warning “stay off the roads”.

    This clearly implies that whilst the father had good intentions, it was by following the old road maps that they were under constant risk and found little food.

    The veteran/family however had clearly therefore been keeping OFF the road and following from a distance and may have found far more food etc as a result as anything around main roads would have been pillaged years previously.

    Also there ARE animals, as the father sees a bird in the distance and a beetle just before he got shot with the arrow so there may well be scavenger type animals like boars/rats/insects who have the natural instinct to keep away from humans. A dog would be perfect to find such things.

    Someone else commented that the man+boy would have been perfect to let go ahead to draw out any threats essentially ‘clearing a path’ for the family following behind.

    As for motives to take the boy with them, it’s an established fact of human history that we survived/evolved by coming together into tribes and hunting/foraging in packs. And on a basic existence level kids eat less, have more energy and would be totally loyal to an adult so are far more suitable to join your ‘clan’ without bringing their own ideoligies/views to cause conflict. (the father was clearly set in his ways and wholly paranoid of any other human so would never have joined/settled in with the family).

    There is of course the deeper subtext that the father starts out full of hope and dreams but as he gets older and frailer he becomes more cynical and paranoid and unwilling to help the old, and a possible inferrence with the black thief to societies treatment of minorities/3rd world nations in taking every last resource and dignity from them.

    The flare gun possibly is a metaphor for the catalclysm that ended the world as the man fires his flare and eliminates the other guy who injured him with the arrow first (essentially how a nuclear war would start).

    This brings the man full circle to represent the old world where the optimism of youth is replaced by the cynicism, greed and fear of older men (politicians, generals etc).

    The fact the father makes a point of visiting his childhood home, signifying an apparent final understanding that the boy within his own self is dying/dead, makes the road itself a metaphor for life, or rather ‘the path’ we follow ultimately from childhood to death.

    But then maybe i’m getting far too deep!!!!

    • Andrew Brannigan May 13, 2011 at 5:39 am #

      Plenty of really good points raised in your argument. As for your theory about traveling on the roads as opposed to traveling through the countryside itself, there are a few different ways to look at that, both pro and con. Firstly, the plus sides to traveling along the roads as opposed to traveling solely through the countryside would be: #1) If there is any sustenance to be found, it’s more likely that the man and the boy would find it in one of the houses or buildings along the road than out in the middle of the woods or in a field. #2) It’s true that traveling along the road means that the possibility of encountering other people is higher, but in several respects, it’s actually safer. For one thing, it’s much more quiet walking on asphalt than tramping through dead woods. #3) It’s much quicker to stick to paved roads. Even if the roads are in terrible condition, it will certainly enable the man and the boy to get more milage out of their shoes. If the object is to reach the coast, tramping through woods and fields makes it much harder to maintain direction (especially since the sun and the stars aren’t reliable for navigation anymore) The negatives to sticking to the roads would be that #1) There are more people traveling along the roads and the possibility of conflict is greater. #2) As you mentioned, most of the abandoned buildings along the roadside would have been rifled long ago. If I had to make the decision for myself based on those facts, i too would opt to stick to the roads as the man did.

      I realise that the purpose of this forum is to analyse the ending to the film, so most of the comments will be solely concerned with the events of the film and not the novel, but there is no mention of a single living thing in the book besides a human being save for a few mushrooms. There are no mammals, there are no birds, there are no fish, no insects, no vegetation, absolutely nothing. The man recalls seeing a flock of birds in the first few years after the cataclysm, but says he never heard them again. There is still a lingering scent of cows in one of the barns they enter, and the man remarks that cows are extinct. He does allow himself to harbour the notion that there may yet be a cow being fed and saved and kept alive somewhere, but he asks himself “Fed what?” “Saved for what?” Good points. With nothing left to feed on, the cow would inevitably die. Even if a cow existed and there was someone attempting to feed it and keep it alive, it takes about ten pounds of feed to create one pound of meat, so it would essentially be completely insane to waste sustenance on an animal, especially if the purpose of feeding the animal would be to consume it anyway. Giving the barest sustenance to say, a dog, might not be so much of a waste, especially considering that a dog would serve as a fantastic perimeter alarm. it could detect the presence of anyone else long before you could. it might be able to sniff out hidden or buried food. But no, there is no mention of anything other than a few starving people left alive.

      While I totally agree with you that one of the marks of human evolution is the formation of bands or tribes or clans or whatever you want to call them, in the world depicted in this piece of work, sustenance is so rare that it would actually be much better to be in as small a group as possible. The roving bands of cannibals definitely have an easier time hunting, but they don’t know how to forage. Once the supply of meat is used up, there isn’t any other way of sustaining the group except to subsist on a member of that group. That’s what the bloodcults did in the novel, that’s what the roadagents do in the film. When the last limb is harvested from the last victim in that cellar, everyone in that gang will be sleeping with one eye open.

      It’s an interesting theory about the flaregun representing the cataclysm itself, but I think your interpretation is incorrect. The cataclysm was a cosmic event like a meteor striking the Earth or a seismic/volcanic event like the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting. it wasn’t a Nuclear War. There isn’t any mention made of radiation or fallout. The boy was born immediately after the event, and he can’t be more than 8, 9, maximum 10 years old, so if it had been nuclear exchange that caused the annihilation of all life on Earth, there would still be plenty of radiation and fallout killing people. There is only ash. Ash that was tossed up into the atmosphere when the meteor/comet collided with the Earth. Or ash that was tossed up into the sky when the volcanos blew. A meteor entering our atmosphere would heat the air in its path to about 60,000 degrees. It would melt steel like cellophane in a campfire. That impact would carve a crater (or multiple craters) in the Earth miles wide and send hundreds of thousands of tons of dirt and rock and ash skyward. The sun wouldn’t penetrate the clouds. Plants and grass and algae would die. Followed by the animals and insects that need those plants to live. Followed by people who eat those plants and those animals. if the flaregun is an analogy, it’s the same analogy that the pistol represents. Survival versus suicide. Life versus death. Light versus darkness. The man carries that pistol around not only for protection from potential enemies, but also to ensure that both he and his son have a “get out of jail free” card. If it gets too bad, they can always take the easy way out. The boy was fascinated with the flarepistol, because it looked like a gun, but it didn’t have the same “one purpose only” label attached to it. Guns are meant to harm, injure, kill. Flarepistols are meant to help, to bring assistance, to call out for aid. But ironically enough, the man uses the flaregun to kill someone who was attempting to kill them. The only cry that goes out is to God, asking why he allowed the humanity, the Earth he created to be reduced to such soulless depths and such evil profundities.

      Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, Bubba. I’m glad you enjoyed the book and I’m glad it’s made you ask so many questions. Be well.

  29. Anders May 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    I was not planning on participate in this discussions, only looking for an explanation of the endning. However, after i’ve read most of your interpretations my mind started to wander.. Here is what is bothering me.. First of all, we see members of the familiy several times in the movie(when he saw the boy running and heard the dog outside the bunker), but it is only the boy who sees/hears them. The father is very stubbon that there is no boy, which i also found a bit weird. But the boy says he needs to run after the boy and when the father asks him why, he’s answer is “because i need it” or something like that. – remember this is all BEFORE they found their food, so that ruins the theory that the family was following them to take their food when they were going to collapse. – Now that scene made me think that the boy actually knew there was no boy, but he just needed to go after what he knew was not real.. that might be a wild guess, it was just my first thought when i saw the scene.. But here’s a real brain teaser. first of all, i found it weird that the guy at the end knew exactly when the father was dead. Also he came from, what seemed to be, a distance far away. Now it took him some time walking down that long beach which you could see far down. the boy spends a very short amount of time saying his last goodbye to the father, and when he returns, suddenly there is a whole family. now where the hell did they come from? you would have seen them if they came from the same place as the veteran, as you guys call him. So i agree with one of your theories.. that these people are not real but something inside the childs mind. If they are some sort of guardian angels or just illusions made up by the boy i do not know. im just sharing my observations.. i’d like to hear what your theory is about these observations. If i’ve made any big grammar mistakes i do apologize. im from Denmark.. 🙂

    • Andrew Brannigan May 13, 2011 at 4:58 am #

      A few of the points you raise are a bit incorrect. Firstly, yes, the boy is the one to spot the child when they are at the house. The boy pursues the child telling him: “I won’t hurt you.” The man only denies the child’s existence because he’s so afraid of the boy revealing their presence to anybody else. He wants to keep the boy close to him at all times and he is attempting to teach the boy to be aware and vigilant. Running away shouting at the top of his lungs is going against every survival skill that the man is trying to instill in his son. it’s interesting because in the novel, the one single instance where the narration changes from third person to first person is when there is a similar situation. The man and the boy hear a dog in the distance (this occurs in the first town they come to in the aftermath of the man killing the roadrat in the woods, leaving them with a single round left in the revolver. The tiretracks of the truck are still visible in the ash on the road going through the town) The man promises his son that they will not hurt the dog. In a first person narration, the man recalls a similar incident that occured before the narration of the book even begins (we know this because the man tells the reader that at that time there were three rounds left in the pistol) The man had attempted to catch the dog but was unable to do so. He attempts to convince himself that the memory of the dog prompted the boy’s vision of the child. So it’s not necessarily true that the man is outright denying the existence of the child the boy sees, it’s simply that he’s so concerned with staying alive (which entails remaining undiscovered by others) that he outright refuses to give any credence to the boy’s claim. Secondly, the boy isn’t the only one to hear the dog in the film version. The man is the one who identifies the sound and rationalises that where there’s a dog, so must there be people. That’s what prompts them to leave the bunker. I find it interesting that a major theme running through the book is that the boy’s dream of finding people, especially other children, is the one driving force that enables him to continue. Whereas the man is afraid of meeting anybody else. he is suspicious and hostile whenever they encounter a stranger. That dichotomy of character sums up the difference between the man and the boy. The difference between maturity and youth. The difference between fear and faith. In a way, if the man hadn’t died, the boy would have never realised his dream and ultimately, he very well might not have survived. If the man were still alive when the veteran approached, it could have gone badly. What could the veteran have possibly said to the man to convince him that he meant no harm? The better question is “Would the veteran have even approached unless he was certain that the man was dead?” Probably not. In both the novel and the film there are points when it’s mentioned that someone may be following the man and the boy. It’s quite possible that the veteran was actually reluctant to reveal himself until he knew the man was dead. That way he would know for certain that he wouldn’t be going up against a hardened survivalist who takes nothing on faith. if the man had survived even a few days, a week, a month longer, it might have meant that the veteran would have gone away and the boy would truly be left all alone in the wake of his father’s death. I earnestly hope that my own personal take on it has given you a bit of food for thought. I have read the book many, many, many times and I have seen the film several times as well. of course, there are many differences, inconsistencies and of course valid interpreetations between the two, but that’s the mark of a truly great piece of work, it always keeps you asking question, always pulls you back in and you find yourself thinking about it long after you close the cover or the credits roll. Take care, Anders.

      • Anders May 14, 2011 at 8:44 am #

        A very fine interpretation.. I agree with your theories and it is probably what the movie was about. But you see, i am still puzzled over some of the things.. You say, that if the veteran had come before or later the situationen would probably had been a whole other, and if the father had survive for a month longer he might not even had showed up. But why is he following them for so long then? it doesnt really make sense. I mean we know they have been following them because of the boy and the “dog sound”, and as i said, and when they boy spots the other kid, it is before they have any food. So if there should be a selfish reason for them to be following up on the father and his child, it should be to eat them i suppose. But why not just kill them while they slept. I mean the veteran was heavily armed and why leave the fathers corpse. So there does not seem to be any selfish reason for them to be following them and they cannot possible know that the father is sick in the beginning.. So why are they following them! secondly, as one of the other comments brought up, how is it that they can afford to take the boy with them and also have a dog? maybe that is not a question we need to think that much about, but it seems stragen that they are just following them and they still have full stomachs.
        Yes it is indeed a good movie, but i hate endings like this.. so many unanswered problems..

      • Andrew Brannigan May 17, 2011 at 5:47 am #

        Neither the book nor the film offer any concrete reasoning as to why the veteran was following the man and the boy. In the novel, the only information that we get is from the veteran himself. When he comes upon the boy after the man has died, the veteran says “There was some discussion as to whether I should even come for you or not.” This seems to mean that the veteran had talked with his wife about the pros and cons of bringing another person into the fold. It’s mentioned later that the woman would sometimes “talk to the boy about God.” We could infer a few different things about just why the veteran and his wife ultimately opted to find the boy. Going on the simple facts that we know: Food, shelter and preservation from danger are the main focus of eking out a life in the world after the cataclysm. We’re left wondering why the veteran and his wife would take a total stranger into their family, but maybe to them, there’s more than just bare survival to strive for. Maybe to them, preserving some form of humanity, decency, extending a hand in charity, saving an innocent life from the jaws of death is worth more than an extra morsel of food or another blanket. Maybe finding the boy and taking him in is what they need to feel alive themselves. Maybe saving the boy means that they now have a living, breathing example of why they continue to go on in the face of constant challenges and eternal despair. many times over the course of the novel, the man asks himself why he continues to play into the idea that there might still be something in the ashes to look forward to. The boy dreams of meeting other children. Hearing another voice besides that of his father. In his innocent little heart, he finds his own ability to conjure up the possibility of other “good guys” and that keeps him moving on down the road. The boy knows nothing of the world before the cataclysm. He doesn’t understand that the world wasn’t always a place where strangers feared one another and every encounter with another human being is “kill or be killed.” Is it supposed to mean that everything the man has tried to do to instill survival instincts in the boy has been in vain? If you look at it in the truest black-and-white sense, than the answer to that question is yes. The man’s dying words to his son: “Keep the gun with you at all times. Don’t take any chances.” These are the important life lessons that the man wants to pass on to his son as he leaves him hopelessly alone and ill-prepared. Basically, the plan that the father outlines to the boy is: Don’t trust anyone. Stay hidden. Stay alert. Don’t ever open yourself to the possibility that anyone could be like me. Everyone is evil, means you harm, ought to be avoided. if you want to stay alive, you have to be self-reliant, alone, forever vigilant. But the boy instead follows his heart. he listens to a little voice inside himself that tells him that maybe, just maybe, all his hopes and dreams about finding salvation or a friend might not be false. He doesn’t turn and run at the moment he sees the veteran approaching. Although a life of being hungry and tired and scared has made it impossible for him to be on guard, he’s still able to allow the man to approach. He’s still able to talk to him. In the end, he’s even able to trust him enough to stake his life on the fact that the man is telling the truth and wants to save him. The man and the veteran never meet, but the veteran is a father as well. He’s raising two children in the same nightmare that the man had been. The veteran must know that he too won’t live forever. Maybe he thinks that with the addition of another man to the family, his wife and son and daughter might stand a better chance. That’s not to mention that if humanity is to continue on, it will be necessary to find someone for his little girl. The boy can be that person. In time, he’ll grow to manhood and he’ll protect the others the way the veteran has raised his own son to do. He’ll carry on the veteran’s line. The man was obviously a very smart, knowledgable, cunning guy. But the veteran managed to keep his family together facing the same odds. The boy ended up finding someone, who not only because he is armed and in better health, will prove to be a better teacher, but he will be better at showing the boy what it takes to survive. The boy’s life will be enriched. Now he will have the opportunity to be around other children. He’ll hear new stories and look at the world in a way he never has before. I think the veteran and his wife chose to bring him into their family to preserve whatever good might be left in the world. The film leaves the impression that humanity will ultimately find a way to continue to exist. The book is much more bleak in that respect. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that the boy doesn’t decide to end his own life. He doesn’t become his father. He clings to hope and fate gives him an opportunity. One could spend half a lifetime discussing the various themes and analogies and idea that this piece of work has created for anyone who opens him or herself to this amazingly poignant and beautiful story. But I believe in my heart of hearts that the boy found salvation.

  30. Anders May 22, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Thank you for your answer.

  31. kikki June 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Fascinating, heartbreaking and horrifying movie. Viggo’s performance was brilliant. To the other commentators, musical cues are usually indicative of mood. If you watch this movie to the end, that is the close-up of the boy’s face as he realizes he has a new family, the music is pleasant and happy. It doesn’t sound as though the kid is going to be dinner. Now, here is something I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere. Am I the only person who watched the credits? Try watching the credits. Turn the volume up and listen as they roll past. After a while, you will begin to hear the voices of children and adults and a dog barking. You will also hear the drone of machinery of some kind. The voices are happy but you really have to listen closely because the constant sound of a machine of some kind drowns them out. Could be a vehicle, could be a chain saw. Then, the music doesn’t sound so pleasant. So, anybody?

    • Will July 16, 2011 at 2:57 am #

      It’s been a while since I watched the movie but as I recall, the sound was a lawn mower. The sounds were of a happy, suburban life – kids at play, spring, neighbor tending to his grass. I saw it as a contrast to what was presented throughout the movie.

    • me August 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      YES! Thank you! Someone else heard that too!

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      The audio during the ending credits is full of birds singing. There’s no birds left alive, so this cannot be events which occur later. The machine is distinctly a lawn-mower; but there’s no grass remaining in the world to mow. We’re hearing an every-day family talking. The ending music has stopped. After a while the music comes back but it is decidedly not cheerful.

      Unfortunately, this does support the delusion theory.
      Or, it may be a theme flashback.
      But it cannot be related to what happens in the future.

  32. Vlad June 29, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    I take the ending as it is :the boy found a new family and they will live happy… until they starve or they are eaten… or until 2012.

  33. russ July 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm #


    I too listened to the credits and heard what first sounded like play and then machines and perhaps terror . . . in fact this is why I searched out this discussion, and for me this remains the ultimate question about the end of the story . . . can anyone provide some insight into the sounds during the credits?

    • Will July 16, 2011 at 2:58 am #

      See my post above.

  34. freddie July 30, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    About the missing thumbs: I thought that the thief and the Vet and his woman were all outcasts because they refused to eat people, and that was the price they had to pay to be allowed to leave cannibalistic groups. Remember, the thief does NOT harm the boy when he steals their stuff, even though it would have been easy to kill a sleeping kid. Also, the thief caves in pretty easily to the man’s demands to take off his clothes. In other words, he’s not a blood-thirsty killer. He just wanted some food that wasn’t human meat, and whatever junk he could grab. Since the thief was a semi-harmless person, I thought the missing thumb was odd, but when I saw it on the Vet and his woman, it occurred to me that it was actually a badge of honor in that screwed up world: this person refuses to eat people. Oddly, opposable thumbs are one of the things that make human beings so clever as a species, so to lose one’s thumbs is in a way to lose humanity… so that’s confusing. lol. Anyhow, they’ve had their humanity stolen from them by the apocalyptic events, but they still remain human because they refuse to eat people, so they are the REAL humans.

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      No, it wouldn’t seem likely that a society of cannibals would punish people for not eating other people. The cannibals would just eat them.

  35. JE August 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    We are supposed to not know whether the family was imagined or whether the boy really saw them throughout the journey. Both are consistent with what we know of the boy and the man. If the boy were delusional, the man would have acted the way he did in the town. And if the boy weren’t delusional and really saw the other boy, the man would have acted the same way. This is true of most of the interactions on the road.

    We also aren’t supposed to know whether the veteran and his family are good guys or cannibals. There are many indications each way which have been fleshed out above. The story sets up opposing interpretations and leaves the resolution for us. As the veteran says “You just have to take a shot.”

    The background sounds in the closing credits are an amazing touch. I heard the pleasant sounds of an outdoor suburban lifestyle on a nice day: children talking, birds, insects, car doors shutting, people saying “later”, dogs barking and lawn mower. It’s a stark contrast, obviously, to the movie but it is meant to tell us what has been lost forever or to hint at the future life for the boy or more likely his children and grand children? Again, we’re not supposed to know. The music is likewise ambiguous. It’s slow but is it more the tune of a slow death or of a sunrise? It has both major and minor keys and lots of chords in between. It likewise feeds both interpretations.

    My interpretation of the movie and then the book is colored by some commentary I heard on a radio review. It was basically that the inspiration of the book was from the perspective of a man having a son late in life. To me it really illuminated what the story was about throughout: You’re older and cynical and you have a child that you need to raise in a world that you think has gone to hell in a handcart. You struggle with the tension between self preservation and compassion. You know in the end you’re not going to be with the child for long enough to see the final result so you do what you can to teach him what he’ll need after you’re gone but also leave some of up to him. Then you die hoping for the best. You don’t know how it will turn out and that is the point of the story and of the ending.

    The story intends to end with an open interpretation. The book lends itself to two drastically competing possible post-ending events. This is intentional. The changes made in the movie only enhance this mechanism – well fed dog, missing thumbs, etc. (I think the cricket and the stray bird were intentionally added to make it slightly more hopeful.) We’re left with a mass of probabilities and an unknown result – a sort of Schroedinger’s cat of life and hope. Ultimately, our individual interpretations determine for each of us what happens after the boy joins the family.

  36. adrian September 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    the world may never know the true ending to this book/movie LOL

  37. bboyneko September 26, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Wow you guys have some great points. I think my favorite comment is the one that says the ending is meant to leave it up to you as to whether you are pessimistic or optimistic. Do you have the fire.

    However I still believe the ending was meant to be pessimistic and show that humanity is basically selfish and evil, kept under control only under the threat of police and soldiers in modern civilization. Once that disappears humans revert to animal behaviors, because those behaviors are what help you survive best when there is no one there to protect you.

    Teaching your child to be hopeful and “good” and trusting is the worst thing you could do in a world like that. The father meant to protect his kid but ironically was dooming the kid to being eaten or worse.

  38. shorty October 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    hi everyone, any help would be appreciated.. i have to do an essay plan 500words approx.

    the question given is: to what extent does the ending of cormac mccarthys the road serve to shape or determine our understanding of the entire work as a whole??

    i need to come up with an introduction that includes an argument statement
    and an outline for the rest of the essay, in which i have to identify 3 main points supporting argument and 2 examples of supporting evidence from thetexts for each main point…. please help.

  39. Kola December 5, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    Here my theory being ex british Army…….

    The vet, is just that. An ex soldier, possibly a very highly trained one. As such he has prepared well for the unknown even, (no doubt a nuclear war -all out) and has stock piles of food and ammo and such, hence not starving, and not lost all decency yet.

    I dont think its a happy ending for the boy though. As much as I think the family at the end are decent so was his father. But it will be much more of the same. IE hiding from cannibals and expecting a horrendous death. I mean good family or bad, its hardly a “phew, glad thats over with now” scenario is it? There still stuck in a horrendous dying word. Not like he’s going to play some playstation 3 any time soon or have any kind or what we would call normality.

    Just a thought but many poor africans enjoy this sort of life style now today!! Yes they have sunshine but no food, no police or army and the biggest gang rules! Somalia anyone? There are places on earth that are almost as bad as this today. Murder, rape, genocide all going unpunished. Trust me, im ex military, ive been there!

  40. memememe December 7, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    The ending of this story cannot be discussed without talking about psychology – the state of mind of the man, the boy, and the viewer/reader. The father descends into a cynical outlook as his fire slowly dies out. However, he hands the fire off to the boy, teaching him the difference between right and wrong and keeping his hope alive. The man invests all he has in the boy, and the boy is one bright hope for good in the world.

    As many elements of the story mirror realities in our world today (starvation, gang warfare), the story is meant to comment on the reader/viewer’s perception of the world. The fact that there are two camps of people on this thread (cannibal theorists and veteran fans) is not a coincidence. Some will identify more with the cynicism of the father, and some with the hope of the son. The son believes in the good of the veteran, and the father would disagree.

    The story is meant for readers/viewers to identify with the boy or the man, and thus their own outlook on life. I took an optimistic (I wouldn’t say naive) conclusion from the ending, and it helped me identify with the believe that the good in the world can still conquer the evil.

    So McCarthy is just offering a look into your own world view. The drastic, post-apocalyptic world serves to emphasize the weight your world view could have.

    Too meta?

  41. mike sparrow December 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    A possible reason they did not kill the boy right away ( if they are cannibals ) could be comparable to keeping a cow alive until it reaches the butchering facility. Freshness and they carry their self there.

    • Kola December 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

      Another point people seem to have missed.

      The music is always doom and gloom when bad stuff happens and happy piano pink n fluffy when good stuff happens. When the family introduce themselves at the end is pink n fluffy. Im guessing this gives away what the director wanted us to know. That the family are good.

      But as I said earlier, its a bad ending for anyone. There is no plant life and the world is dying. No foodchain = no life. Everyone is fucked, not just the boy. There just managing to hang on a little longer.

  42. Snailycake January 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I’d like to point out, that the veteran looked like Shaun White.

  43. Snailycake January 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    All jokes aside though, I put the credit sounds through the biggest pair of speakers I could find. The couple speaking are saying things like “shut the back door” ect… and the sound is just a lawnmower. Its supposed to provide a contrast to the bleakness of current life to show us what we lost in a similar way to the final paragraph of the book which I have taken to imply that we have lost all of the secrets of nature engraved on the back of a trout.

  44. Fredd January 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    THE KID DIDN’T GET EATEN (at least by the Vet and the family). I think the movie gives as a general idea about the kind of world the characters are living. The structure of the cannibal tribe is basic and brutal, and their organization is based on power, the strongest over the weakest. That’s why there is mostly MALE-members with the same age. So, the elderly, the young or a female would be raped, killed and eaten right away.According to the logic of the movie, it doesn’t seem possible that a CANNIBAL COULD HAVE A HAPPY FAMILY, A HOT WIFE, TWO NICE KIDS AND A DOG. The vet and the family symbolyze hope and a new form of survival. If the Vet is a good guy? Well, to survive in a world like that. Who is?

  45. Ade B January 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    A disappointing and Disney-esque ending to a movie that was, until then, raw jarring and brutal. It smacked of a screen test ending so audiences walked away mildly happy. To have to search for an ending that fits with the rest of the movie shows its inconsistencies. An overtly model family of heterosexual/opposite sex adults and young children sat at total odds with the content of the rest of the film. The old guy makes it clear that he never thought he’d see a child again, yet here’s two in a single family group. With a dog… a dog that was undoubtedly the same one that the boy heard when they were in the shelter.If it’s a genuine family group that have managed against all the odds to be successful and have now adopted another child then it is clumsy. If it is a group of hunting cannibals who keep the meat fresh “on the hoof” until they need it, then it is contrived. It is an ending that was not needed. The world was dying and it’s inhabitants were facing an increasingly food sparse environment, the boy was left alone and would either 1) fail to keep a low profile and be taken by cannibals 2) have his innocence exploited by befriending another traveller a la old man and lose everything 3) just fail to find enough food 4) discover how to survive and eventually find another like minded soul. Surely the whole film was about existence, attrition and survival, just keeping going every day, not semi-tidy new beginnings with a nuclear family? The family were too tidy, crudely introduced & unrealistic. There was no depth to their legend (background). So for me, emperors new clothes ending, it is far from good, and devalues the movie. I don’t need to be spoon fed an ending, but whichever way this pans out (cannibals or genuine 2+2 family) neither is plausible.

    • Andrew Brannigan January 29, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      The problem with turning the ending into the dichotomy of whether or not the veteran and his family are “good”, and therefore “on the level” or “evil”, ie: “playing the part for the boy’s sake” is that to back up either argument, the only information you have is what you’ve been presented with. Delving into it any deeper than that means that you have to actually decide which direction the boy’s fate takes simply on your own intuitions. The ending in the novel was a bit different. The author goes on to say that the veteran kept his word and brought the boy back to live with his family. The idea that the boy will one day grow to be a man becomes significant because the veteran himself has a daughter. The child that they may one day have together presents a sliver of hope for humanity’s continued existence. There is no mention of the veteran and his family owning a dog in the written work. While I can see the validity of the argument that portions of the story were altered to avoid throwing some very deeply disturbing images at the audience, I disagree that the ending was tweaked to create some wholly alien sense of comfort simply because the average moviegoer enjoys a happy ending. Throughout both the book and the film, the one beutiful piece of the story is the love between the man and the boy. As they make their way across a land completely devastated and barren, they manage to give one another what’s needed to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Obvious deviations in the film from some of the horrible things that are talked about in the book involve extremely graphic scenes of violence and infanticide that simply have no place in a film available to a wide audience. Some of that was touched upon using softer images to set the tone for the horror that they were intended to veil. While there’s a good amount of sense in saying that a struggling family ought to think twice before they decide to invite another mouth to feed into their fold, there’s so much more to it than that. Keep in mind that the cannibals are consuming not only whoever they might come across, but eventually, each other as well. They are most likely comprised of groups of people that either lack the skills required to forage for provisions or people who fail to see the sense in it when there is still meat available. Yes, they are all existing in a world where the food supply is growing smaller by the day, but only one group is actually contributing to its own extinction. As more people die off, whatever’s left merely has to provide for fewer and fewer numbers, and although that isn’t saying a whole lot, it still makes a difference and gives some hope that good and decent people may in fact be able to outlast the rogues. Several of the posts above have explored some of the reasoning behind the presence of a dog in the veteran’s family. Although having a dog would definitely be useful for a lot of different reasons (the dog would detect trouble long before a man would, the dog could pick up scents and trails, etc.) there was no mention in the novel of the veteran and his family owning a dog. As far as the veteran goes, the reason why he’s referred to as the veteran is not because it’s being implied that he’s ex-military (although there’s nothing to say that he isn’t) he’s referred to as the veteran simply because the author describes him as “a veteran of old skirmishes.” The fact that the veteran has been able to feed and protect his family since the cataclysm that caused the world to fall to pieces shows that he (very much like the man) has an intelligence that enables him to find solutions to extremely daunting challenges, but also shows that when he isn’t left with an option, he’s willing to do what he has to do to survive. It’s implied that he will continue to teach the boy that in the world they now live in, sometimes it’s necessary to defend yourself against the evil that exists around them. So, for the $60,000 question: Why did the veteran take the boy in when he knows how difficult and hardscrabble life is already? Because he’s raising his little boy and his little girl in that world. If anything should ever happen to him, I’m certain he would want for someone with a good heart to extend help and compassion to his family. If he had been following the man and the boy, he would have seen that the man was merely attempting to keep his son alive, he wasn’t a roving murderer. Perhaps he feels that in the end, everyone is doomed anyway and it is that bleak, but he still feels that taking the boy in is the right thing to do and that alone is what spurns him to do it.

  46. MK February 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I am joining this discussion very late, as I saw the movie last night. It was really hard to believe that those were good guys since ‘guy pierce’ walked to the boy. But I still wanted to give it a chance as they might be surviving on hunting birds and some fish from the sea. But the last line from the woman made me believed that the boy is doomed. She said ‘I am so happy to find you’ and they also admitted that had been following the boy for quite sometime. My heart sank when I heard that. In a world where it is almost impossible to take care of your own self why the hell she was happy to find the boy?? Because she just found ‘food’.

    • Bloke July 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Scary! You’re right.

      >>But the last line from the woman made me believed that the boy is doomed. She said ‘I am so happy to find you’ and they also admitted that had been following the boy for quite sometime. My heart sank when I heard that. In a world where it is almost impossible to take care of your own self why the hell she was happy to find the boy?? Because she just found ‘food’.<<

  47. Mickey February 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    @ MK

    No man, there is no fish, or birds as there is no plants and the whole food chain has broke down. There is no more food!

    Anyone left on the dying planet who is struggling to survive is only putting of the inevitable. So everyone is fucked no matter how good or bad the family are.

    Its just a question of if by suicide, starvation (Even the cannibals will run dry as the populous thins to nothing) exposure, desise, or whatever. But unless the trees and plant life start to blossom, its game over.

    • Andrew Brannigan May 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Human instinct and the will to survive is going to be strong in anyone who’s managed to hang on until that late a stage in the game. As the population decreases due to starvation, exposure, and murder, the competition for whatever scant resources are left grows thinner as well. it might be possible to eke out the most meager sustenance by constantly staying on the move and being smart about where you look for provisions. The man kept the boy alive for a decade, and even though the story leads one to believe that things slowly worsened as time went on before hitting rock bottom, there’s still a possibility that enough tinned food can be procured to stay alive. Unlikely – yes. Would anyone choose to undertake a daily struggle of that magnitude – of course not. But the will to live will spurn you on and there’s no evidence to say that each and every human being left wandering the barren Earth is doomed, at least not immediately.

  48. robby April 9, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    I actually don’t believe we are given enough clues to know for sure whether or not the family is good or bad. As the veteran says to the boy, “You’ll just have to take a shot”, is also meant for the audience in a way. We are free to come up with our own interpretations of the film, as with any other piece of art.
    My interpretation is that the family at the end of the movie were good people. I base this on my thoughts about the symbolism of the coast. Throughout the film, the father says, “everything depends on us reaching the coast”. As soon as they arrive (more or less) the father dies. It is my thought that the sole purpose of the father was to ensure the boy would make it in this world, and the coast was symbolic of salvation. It is no accident that McCarthy introduces the family at the coast, as the boy has been “delivered” there by his papa. Once the man and the boy reach the coast, the man’s journey is over. He has fulfilled his quest and duty as the boy’s protector. It makes sense, as the man even says that the only thing he is sure of is that the boy is his warrant.

    • rskenderian September 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      A thoughtful interpretation. However, the inclusion of the dog is really enough of an unfortunate clue – so much so that I can’t see any other possibility than the family are cannibals and have stalked the boy. There’s no food – none – and dogs eat meat. How else could the dog be fed when even people scavenging are not surviving?. The ending shot of the two kids was pretty powerful, too, as the look on the couple’s boy’s face doesn’t imply anything good to come; he looks genuinely afraid to interact with this new person, as if knowing that they were going to eat him.

  49. Louie Kiskowski April 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I think the man and woman were kicked from the commune for not killing and eating their kids, now another generation is possible without inscest. Or they are some crafty cannibals indeed…

    • Andrew Brannigan May 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      It’s doubtful that a commune of cannibals would exile a group of members solely because those members are too picky about who they’re willing to eat. The cannibals are able to hunt in numbers which would make procuring fresh meat that much easier. But remember that the Earth’s population has dwindled to a fraction of what it had been and there aren’t all that many survivors left by the time the story picks up (my estimation is that the cataclysm happened ten years or so before the events in the film) So it’s inevitable that the cannibals would have had to resort to feeding on one another. It makes zero sense for a group of starving, morally decrepit people to allow four human beings to be exiled rather than consumed.

  50. Kaoru June 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Consider this: movie does not equal book. What actually happened in the book is waaaaaaaay different than what you say happened. Just because somebody makes a visual interpretation doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

  51. JAKE G June 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    So what exactly is the TRUe ending of this book? Anyone get in contact with the directors/producers and actually ask? Or the writer of the book itself?

    The kid the boy saw was the same kid that he saw when they were at the boy’s father’s house. Also, when they were in the bomb shelter, the “dog” they heard that had “people” with them must have been that same family. and after reading all these comments, i think i might agree with the OP because his arguments seem really true. They were folliowing them for a long time, so why didn’t they come to the aid of the dad when he was sick/shot/about to die.. also the way the vet and his clan talked to the boy seemed very fishy.. I dont know man this is so confusing !

    • JAKE G June 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      Also I forgot to add:

      “If you had read the book you would know that it mentions that outcasts from human communes have their fingers chopped off. This is referencd in the film: both the thief and the traveler at the end have no thumbs. Another clue to their evil intentions.”

      This is true. Both the vet and the woman have no thumbs, same with the thief.

      • JAKE G June 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm #


        Just watched the directors cut and the director commented right at the ending that the point of this ending was to show the leap of faith that the kid had and was willing to take, to ultimately save his life, whereas the father, because of all the fear inside of him, could not make such a rash decision. The Director also mentioned that in the book, right after the boy meets the family, the story fast forwards to when the boy is older, showing how he lived on all these years. And to portray that ending, the director made it so that after the boy met the Vet in the movie, they had to portray the family as well (the other boy who he met earlier, the girl, the dog, and the wife) so that it could symbolize that this is a family that is managed to survive through various methods and that the kid would grow up to be in safe hands.. part of that is the idea of the dog, the boy always thought they were being followed and there were other people like them they wanted to connect with each other. This is what the boy hoped for all along and he finally gets it at the end. The dog is the very last thing you would last eat, since it is the key to survival in such a world. The ending of the boys face is a face looking into his own future, looking into these survivors, and people that clearly had made similar choices that he and his father had made.

        So it looks like OP’s theory is incorrect, but nonetheless it was a very interesting idea! Nonetheless though, the director could have made it less ambiguous because it’s such an open-ended ending!!

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  53. Michelle October 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    well biasing your opinion on the movie is a little one sided. in the book there is much more dialogue you understand the ending more. the people were good and the kid was lucky. I agree with jeremy and skoko. there is no way those people were bad. READ THE BOOK

    • Smokedpaprika November 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      I don’t agree with you. I’ve read the book, and the ending is still a mystery. Hey, even the last line uses the phrase “hummed of mystery”.

      I agree that people should set aside the movie and read the book.

  54. Nutrideath October 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    imho, this story is full of allegory. That’s what makes it such a good story.

    I have not read the book. I watched the movie only once, and thought it was awful. So gray & bleak, so hopeless. But this is one of those movies I just can’t get out of my head. Just like the ending to No Country For Old Men, your mind just keeps turning it over and over, because you just KNOW there is something deeper there. And so I changed my mind – I think it is a great movie because of the depth found in it.

    So, here is my take on it:

    The Man is never named, and neither is the Boy. Thus, the Man represents Mankind, and the Boy represents Mankind’s future. The Road (the name of the book/film) is Life. Things we encounter as we live, choices we make. Ultimately, the Road is a test of whether or not we “carry the fire” or not. Whether we are a “good guy” or a “bad guy”.

    The Cataclysm is unspecified. We never hear exactly what the cataclysm was. And that’s because this story is ultimately pessimistic. It says: “Man will cause his own destruction. He has it in him. He’ll do it one way or another. He is ruining the earth, and with its death dies humanity itself.”

    And when he does cause his own destruction his happiness, his reason for living, all that is good for him will die out of despair. This is represented when his wife walks away into the cold darkness, never to be seen again.

    The bug represents a ray of hope, seemingly the only bit of life in a dead world. However, as soon as they are distracted by this bit of “life”, death comes in the form of the arrow hitting the Man. The Man retaliates, killing his attacker. But the wound from the arrow is the beginning of the end for the Man. I think (as someone before me on this blog posted) that this is the Cataclysm in microcosm. Man attacks Man, mortally wounding himself and dying a slow death while life (the bug) flies away.

    One key to the whole story is when the Man tells the Boy that “Nightmares are good. That means you are still fighting to stay alive. When you dream about good things you have given up.” This is proven true at the end, as the Man dies. He dreams of good things – his wife, his life before, his happiness.

    I think that after the Man died, the Boy lost it. He couldn’t face life without the Man, and so gave up. He dreamed “about good things” – the Veteran and his new family, with children to play with and even a dog.

    The Veteran told the Boy he had a choice: Come with me (give up, and embrace the good dream), or keep to himself. But if he (the Boy) is going to go out on his own, “Stay off the road.” Since the road represents the path of our life, staying off of it would mean suicide with the one remaining bullet in the gun. The Boy’s dream Veteran helps him see his choices, which in reality are neither one very good. (This is like Morpheus in the Matrix offering the red pill and the blue pill.)

    The family, and especially the boy and girl, with the Veteran are all figments of the Boy’s “good dream”. They represent everything the Boy has been hoping for, and some of what we, mankind, hope for our future (represented by the Boy, remember). Friendship, family, eventually having children of our own, teaching them to “carry the fire”, as we carry it to the best of our ability.

    Much has been said here of the lack of thumbs: on the Veteran and his wife, as well as the thief. Evidently the book explains that outcasts from communes are sometimes sent away after having fingers removed, as some sort of identifying mark and punishment. But these are not just missing fingers. They are missing their THUMBS, specifically. Thumbs are sometimes considered to be something that sets Man apart from animals. So, the missing thumbs represent a loss of humanity, a degeneration into the animalistic. This is reinforced by the idea that other humans have rejected them. Regardless, if the thief were real, but the Veteran & his family were only the Boy’s dream, then the family he dreamt of is flawed, less human than the Boy would have hoped. So his acceptance of the “good dream” rather than suicide would mean that he would have to accept that to survive on the road, he would have to lay down the fire, lose some of the ideals of the Man in order to survive.

    But he can’t face that all at once. He might tell himself he was still “carrying the fire”, so that he could face the betrayal of those ideals. Note that the Veteran has to think about it a bit before accepting that, “Yes, we carry the fire.” He might have added, “It’s not exactly the same fire as the Man’s. Not his standards, not his morals. But we have our own version.” Maybe that’s what the Veteran (the Boy’s dream) is thinking, and will eventually teach the Boy. And so in reality, this is how the Boy learns to survive: He talks himself into being more ruthless than the Man, even though the Boy started out being kindhearted to a fault.

    It is the Boy’s only way to survive the Road.

  55. Smokedpaprika November 3, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    So many speculations here. IMO, the book’s version should stand. There is no mention of any missing thumb on the veteran. The ending is creepy, even ominous, because:
    1. The veteran has no clue what the little boy was talking about when he quizzes him about carrying the fire. The veteran instead asks the kid if he is a little weirded out. When asked again, he looks skyward before answering, Yeah, we are. He’s lying.
    2. The veteran knows he can overpower the kid but he must have other plans for him. The kid would be useful because he knows how to fire a gun and must have been observed to have learned some survival techniques from his dad plus has revealed that he’s innocent and naive by the compassion he’s shown total strangers. The veteran is obviously well-versed in gaining the boy’s trust, as he knows the boy is too frightened of being alone. Easier to gain trust and to get the prey to follow than to struggle with taking him back. He wants to take him back ALIVE.
    3. The veteran asks the boy to step out to the road and wait for him there, while he gathers the blankets and wraps the boy’s dead father. WHY? He’s also interested in the boy’s suitcase. When the boy asks to go say goodbye, one last time, to his dad, the veteran leaves him there and waits for him by the road. The author says that the body was wrapped up and the boy DID NOT UNWRAP it! The author does not mince (sorry) words. This is a very important clue, ya think?!

    • Smokedpaprika November 3, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      To continue…..

      4. The minute the woman at the end “would talk to him sometimes about God”, the attempts at brainwashing has clearly begun. The boy only wants to talk to his dead father.
      5. The cannibals know that sooner or later, the canned goods would run out. Nothing will grow in the ashen earth. Last paragraph talks about “Of a thing which could not be put back. Not to be made right again.” Their only hope is to “farm” humans. You don’t kill all the cows you have if you wan’t to have milk and calves. You don’t kill all the chickens you have if you want to have eggs, etc.

      • Andrew Brannigan November 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

        I don’t agree with your points at all and I think that there’s a good amount of misrepresentation with some of your facts.
        1) It’s more than understandable that the veteran doesn’t immediately understand the boy’s question when he asks him “Are you carrying the fire?” That was the phrasing his father used to describe the ideal that the good people left alive should strive for. The concept of “carrying the fire” in the man’s definition would be to persevere despite the bleakness of life, to continue to represent all that’s good and decent about humanity. To someone hearing the phrase for the first time, he had to think for a moment at how best to respond. There’s no reason to read into his “looking up at the sky” as being anything nefarious. As a matter of fact, many times over the course of the novel, the man himself looks to the sky when he’s pondering the answer to a question.
        2) This point made me think of the part of the novel where the man enters a barn where there is still a lingering odor of cows. It dawns on him that cows, like all other forms of life – are extinct. But he questions that logic and asks himself “Could there be a cow alive someplace, being fed and cared for?” After a moment’s rumination on that he realizes the futility of that endeavor and asks “Fed what? Saved for what?” The people left alive that have opted to become savages aren’t giving any thought to the future of the human race. They’ve denigrated to animals seeking prey. They’re incapable of forming ideas like that. Yes, they’ll employ methods similar to the ones used by the cannibal gang in the house. They’ll harvest limbs to stretch the meat from one kill out as long as possible. But farmers think about what they can do to ensure a good harvest next season. Lions and wolves will hunt their territory until it’s completely devoid of game. And that’s what the cannibals are doing.
        3) No, I don’t see why that would be important. As he lays, dying, the man tells the boy that he doesn’t want anything covering him. The boy covers his father’s body as a sign of respect. What does the fact that the man is wrapped in blankets tell you? The boy is cold and hungry and sits by his father’s side for three days. I’m at a loss to see what you’re insinuating on this one.
        4) Brainwashing? Where does that come from? Many of the principles that the man embodies are well-known tenets of Christianity. But the man doesn’t talk to his son about God because he feels cheated, wronged, and abandoned by God. Throughout the novel, the man’s descriptions of the boy are rife with Biblical symbolism, “glowing like a tabernackle in that waste”, There’s no reason to believe that the woman’s faith is anything but genuine.
        5) Well, we seem to be getting redundant as we’ve already covered this same point earlier in #2.

  56. Highman555 November 16, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    the entity of the ending of the fiml is confusing at most, i understand that differnt people take away a differnt meaning of the ending scene but from reading the book and then about two minutes of putting the book down watching the film it’s hard to imagine this family of four has managed to sustain them selfves for a prolonged period of time without resulting to eating humans.

    First of id like to mention that people have made little to none mention about the scene of the women and her daughter getting chased down and killed by the canniabls in the filds where the boy and his father watched, you can see that that women is the same women at the end of the film pointing that the kid could be imagining things

    the mans thumbs that have been amputated show a link to the cannibal conumes suggesting that yes this family has eaten humans, but i hardly doubt they are intending to eat the boy as that man could easily of taken the gun of the boy’s hand and there would of been no need to deseave the kid suggesting that he may be being recruited to become a monster and be used by the people for ill gain \

    another suggestion could be he was imaging this whole occurance or that they where really a good natured family who may of known a place further south down the coast where it was warmer, maybe they keep walking and gain there fuel from finds of food and eventually they find fertile land where people have started producing food and a rustic civilization has taken place.

    personally a better ending for them film would of been the boy clocking the gun as the camera pans down the beach and exposes a dull grey coastline devoured of all signs of life and then a load bang. to emphasize the boys death. aswell as that the camera should lift up in a flying arc position and keep heading south fyling over a group of people in gray paddocks feasting on the flesh of a family and show the camera heading into differnt areas untill it goes all the way south after miles of devestation to a small campfire with a fish being cooked on it and a man and a small child next to a river that seems to be abundent with fish.

    • Andrew Brannigan November 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Maybe a better idea would be for you ought to write your own novel or screenplay with its own ending. The novel ended on the note that the author wanted to leave the reader with. It’s amazing that a big-budget studio even wanted to make this movie considering how difficult it is to entice people to watch innocent people suffer for two hours. Despite the fact that the story is rife with horrible occurrences and evil doers, the love and hope that the man and his son embody flows through every page. That’s a difficult feat to bring across to the screen. Liberties were of course taken in the telling of the tale from the novel to the film. But the culmination of the journey is still paramount to the whole of the epic. The boy has found salvation. No matter how hard you look you won’t find any conclusive evidence of the opposite. Because there isn’t meant to be any. The man knows that he is dying throughout the whole of the story, his death comes as no surprise to anyone, least of all himself. But the one bright anticipation that he clung to with all of his being has been realized – the boy has found another good guy. The future of humanity looks bleak in both works but that doesn’t mean that in some small way, there has been a victory. Like the man says in the book: “A lot of bad things have happened but we’re still here… you don’t think that’s so great?” The boy’s reply: “It’s okay.” The boy’s reply when the veteran answers in the affirmative that he can go with him: “Okay then.” We’re never meant to know what’s happening in the far-flung corners of the world, we’re only meant to journey along with the man and his son and see where their road takes them. Indisputably, the boy has found salvation.

  57. steva November 17, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    my poor english … it is a happy end … also a sad one .. child is an angel, pure soul, the one who have flame in hart, to renew the humanity after the great fall …

  58. steva November 17, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    how nobody commented a bug that he found … bug represents new beginning of the life … if there is a bug, there are plants somewhere … life started all over again ….

  59. b8te November 29, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I haven’t actually seen the movie, however, I did just finish the book and I truly believe the family wasn’t bad people. In the last sentences of the book the boy talks about how the mother talked to him about god from time to time, but the boy couldn’t manage to talk to god, but instead he talked to his father in his imagination, and he never forgot him, like he promised. The mother says that’s okay, and the last sentences about the life of the boy end with a quote from the mother “the breath of God was the boy’s breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.” If you look back at the man’s last words in the book it’s that the boy would always be lucky, and he would find the good guys who also carried the fire, and I do believe the family were the good guys who the boy would meet. In all of the book it is also hinted time after time that the boy is a god, metaphorically or literally. And also, it’s never said in the book that the family had a dog.

    And while I do believe the family were the good guys, the ending is still hauntingly sad. The last paragraph of the book basically confirms the fact that the world has indeed ended and there will never be the world as we know it again. It can never be made right again, and nothing can be put back. The world has ended, yet the story we read was the somewhat the last chronicles of the love between a father and child. That’s my interpretation.

  60. Tori December 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    The boys father was visibly ill, they could have possibly been waiting out untill he died to avoid the trouble.
    Okay… why would the veteran and his group be following the boy if they were not going to eat him? Pointless.
    Animals stalk their prey.
    It’s impossible in a world like that, that there would be people willing to pick up an extra mouth to feed.
    There is several times where following is mentioned, and not in a god manner.
    I think that was an indication that something bad would happen to the boy.

  61. scott muller December 10, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    Sorry, I disagree with all of you (I think). The boy took the last bullet and killed himself. Heaven for someone like him, the best he can possibly imagine, is a loving family, with a couple of kids about his age, and a dog. And the “mom” said he wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore. He was dead.

  62. Dennis December 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    I find the words of the redhead mother at the end of the movie to be so creepy and unnatural that the couple must have some hidden bad agenda for our sweet boy. What that agenda is, I don’t know? The boy is probably harvested …

  63. Dennis December 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Besides, the sounds in the end while the titles ran etc. could be the sounds the boy heard, when he was in the belly of his mother, played by Charlize Theron, before the apocalypse and which he now hears as his life is over.

  64. Andrew Brannigan January 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    In the novel, the open-ended question isn’t whether or not the veteran and his wife are evil. McCarthy specifically tells us that they are good people who are happy to take the boy in and raise him as one of their own. The open-ended question is whether or not mankind will be eliminated. The fact that the veteran and his wife have a little girl makes it a possibility that the boy will have a child of his own one day. But that doesn’t mean that humanity will be able to persevere in the face of the devastation left in the aftermath of whatever cataclysm occurred.

    My own personal theory is that the Earth was hit by a comet or meteor and the tremendous force of the blast caused all the destruction. Scientists believe that it was something akin to that which wiped out the dinosaurs and over 90% of other forms of life on Earth millions of years ago. All the clues in both the novel and the film support the idea that an extra-terrestrial object collided with the Earth. Although there is no mention of fallout (ruling out the idea that the cataclysm was Nuclear War) there was however a reason the clocks stopped at 1:17. Electro-Magnetic-Pulse. This is also the reason why the road-agents were only able to get such an old truck running. Vehicles manufactured after the mid-1970s required an electric charge to start the ignition but older vehicles did not, so it was possible for the engines to survive EMP.

    The man remarks about the firestorms that swept across the land. if I’m right in assuming that their journey began just west of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and culminates somewhere along the coast of what had once been South Carolina, they traveled about 600 miles. We don’t know where the impact occurred, but we can guess that the object may have hit with enough force to knock the Earth off its axis. That could explain why the weather is so strikingly different (even with the light from the sun obscured by all the dust and ash in the atmosphere) the object may also have caused billions of gallons of seawater to boil away and the salinity levels of the oceans could be off to the point where there is no longer a sense of balance to anything. The heat the object generated as it entered the atmosphere caused steel-framed buildings to reset and burned people to ash.

    But is that the end? is humanity reduced to a few survivors, some struggling to find enough sustenance to make it through another day and some hunting them? What will happen when there aren’t any more provisions to scavenge? or when there aren’t any more limbs to harvest? The film gives us the possibility that life will find a way in the form of the insect that the man and his son see. I don’t understand why some posters point to the fact that Hillcoat took the liberty of adding that to his interpretation of the story but at the same time insist that the veteran and his family are evil and up to no good. Why would the director show his audience that there is some hope after all and then send the innocent boy off to his death at the hands of cannibals?

    In the end, there is always hope. Human beings walk the Earth today because life managed to hold on in some form or another. The dominant species of life on the planet was extirpated but life managed to find enough of a toehold to continue. Maybe Hillcoat’s take on the story is that, even though humanity is doomed, life itself will be able to hold on.

    As far as the sounds that we hear as the credits roll at the end of the film, I don’t think there’s anything to read into. In both the book and the film, there really aren’t a whole lot of sounds anymore. There aren’t any birds. There are hardly any people. The only sounds are the wind and the rain. Hillcoat used the sounds that we hear every minute of every day and never stop to think about. I thought it was fitting.

  65. alreadyded January 16, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Either way everyone dies in the end. The Earth can no longer support life. Food cannot be grown, plants and animals are all dead (even the trees, which produce needed oxygen), humans are only able to survive due to the remains of their civilization (one created by an excess food supply) and eating each other. Both the book and movie make it very clear that everyone is just surviving until they eventually die, not living. The end of the book states very clearly that things can never be as they were.

    As a former Recon Marine and avid survivalist in hostile environments, I tried to think of where they could possibly go to live (not just survive) and could not come up with anything. Cannibalism wouldn’t work as you would run out of humans eventually. You could grow a fungus farm, but living off of mushrooms and the like is not possible as you would eventually die of malnutrition. And with all the trees long dead it is only a matter of time before the air itself becomes more toxic and eventually lethal.

  66. Vic February 12, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    i DISAGREE. The boy was needed by the family because they see hope ahead and their daughter cannot have kids with her brother. They needed a different pool of genes to continue procreating. The parents have to be sure that their next of line would not be cannibals that’s why they follow the father and son to be sure the boy is not a cannibal. This cataclysm will end which I believe is caused by a state size meteor. Absence of sunlight, dust in the air and dead plants and animals is pathognomonic of a meteor impact. No parents would want cannibal progenies nor communities of cannibals.
    I grew up in a different country and the number one sign I saw that make Americans humane is the care for their dogs. The care for pets like family is a sign of civilization in a higher level. This gives me a hint that the family are not cannibals. If the family are cannibals, and therefore uncivilized, the dog would be a good and easy source of meat.
    Another hint that made me conclude that the family are not cannibals is the fact that the father and son duo survive without resorting to cannibalism. If they can do it, then the family of four can also do it.
    The family looks like fat because they were wearing a winter jacket. Remember, they have to wear it all the time, it’s the easiest way to carry it when you need it during frigid nights.

  67. Andrew Brannigan February 13, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    While I tend to agree with Alreadyded who left a comment back in January about things looking bleak for humanity on the whole, I think Vic’s comment above mine is a lot closer to the mark. Yes, it’s true that such dire circumstances could likely bring out the worst in people. Compassion would be hard to come by in such a world. But that doesn’t mean it would be non-existent.

    Think about what “Ely” says when the man asks him how he stays alive: “People give you things.” The man is incredulous. Yet HE HIMSELF has just done so. The man is astonished that anyone would do such a thing. It’s nearly impossible for him to fathom how the old man might have the good fortune to find his lonely path crossing that of a total stranger who inexplicably in a show of unbelievable generosity and humanity, shares what meager sustenance he or she may have with someone they have never met, never spoken to before that moment. But we have no reason to believe that it had never happened before.

    Remember that those who continue to place one foot before the other along that desolate road where no sign of hope or salvation is to be seen amidst the deadness of the rotting world that once was are not all bad. The man and his son must exist in a constant state of alertness, they must be ready for anything at all times. There is no innocence or peace for anybody on the road. But that doesn’t make them all hunters, murderers, it doesn’t make them all heartless. Whether humanity has a hope of coming back from the brink of extinction someday or is drifting on numbered days, we can’t know. But what we can know is that the few good people that are left aren’t going to disappear without giving it everything they’ve got. And to do that, they’ve got to find one another. They’ve got to join forces. They’ve got to increase their numbers. Pass on whatever knowledge they can to the younger generations. The veteran and his wife don’t care if their son and daughter have five years left or fifty. They’re going to love them, and care for them, and provide for them. And give them every advantage they can muster to make through to tomorrow. Taking the boy in doesn’t just save the boy. It’s just as much for the veteran and his family – for all of them, as it is for the boy. That family unit has just gained one member who will one day grow to maturity. The veteran will grow old and he won’t be able to be the provider and the defender someday. But his son and the boy will be there to take up that torch. he will teach them how to procure food, how to handle a weapon when it’s needed for defense. He’ll teach those two boys to be compassionate and vigilant and strong just like he is.

    There’s been some speculation about the dog. Some people claim that it’s senseless for a family to keep and provide for a dog when sustenance is so scarce. I disagree. Think about the old story of the goose that laid golden eggs. What does the fool do? he slices it open to get the gold and finds that it’s no different on the inside than any other goose. The same analogy applies to the veteran’s dog. Yes, eating the dog, they might get a meal or two out of it. It’s doubtful that they’ve had fresh meat in the last ten years. But they would pay a heavy price for that foolish act. No longer would they have the best alarm system that they could dream up in that world. The dog’s ability to smell danger long before any of them could is worth its weight in gold. As they sleep at night, they know that the dog stands guard over them. The dog can sense intruders approaching, it can sniff out food or a trap better than any of the rest of them. If God forbid, I was cursed and put in the position of being a husband and a father under those circumstances, the dog would be priceless in my eyes, absolutely invaluable. This is also not to mention that the dog can eat things that humans could not or would not eat, so it’s not necessarily a case where the family is going without to supply the dog. Every night, thousands of dogs in our country are treated to scraps that would have ended up in the trash if the dog hadn’t have been there to benefit from them. True, it’s doubtful that the veteran has the luxury of treating his dog to leftovers, but in practical terms, the dog can eat say, a cannibal that tried to attack the family. The veteran could easily treat the dog to organ meat and not have to worry about the dog turning on the family in lean times. Also, if the family was to come across some food they weren’t sure about, they could test it on the dog rather than risk their own lives eating something that may be poisonous.

    The main point is that, it doesn’t matter if humanity is doomed. The veteran isn’t going to lie down and die and he’s not going to give up doing his best to provide and protect for his family. Even if no single character lived for 100 days past the final line of what’s described in the novel, it was worth it for all of them. It was worth it for the man – he proved to his son that there were indeed ‘good guys’ still out there… it was worth it for the boy – his hopes and dreams of finding the people his father had always promised him about were real… it was worth it for the veteran and his wife – they now have another mouth to feed, yes, but they also have another ‘son’ to love them and care for them… it was worth it for the veteran’s son – he now has a ‘brother’ a friend for life, someone to help him and keep him company… it was worth it for the veteran’s daughter too – she now has the chance of being a mother to a child of her own, she can aspire to living a life like her mother, being scared and hungry, yes. And afraid too. But also hopeful.

  68. Maneesh April 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Nope….I think the kid ate them all for breakfast the next morning….except the dog, who became his best friend forever.

  69. Frank May 5, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    From the Movie:
    Did you remember when they found lots of food in the underground?
    After few days, they heard dog’s sound and then they had to move?
    That’s the same dog which the family bring.
    That’s why the family appreciate the child.

    Is it right?

  70. oli May 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    I hoped for a happy ending but i also picked up on the shifty eyes of the man. He also looked eager to get the boy to join him and didn’t try to coax and comfort him. I think the boy got killed.

  71. elyse July 8, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Late, but no one else mentioned this… The Veteran averted his eyes because he had just told the boy, “You’ll just have to take a shot…” – Poor choice in words with a pistol aimed in your face! A spark of humor!

    Yeah, I thought the abruptness of dreamed-about companions coming forward at the final moment and adopting him, was sketchy. But if it was intended to be a twist, I think only that the Boy had blown his brains out, and in that moment, his manifested wishes or angels were there with him to “set sail” on the final journey to the afterlife. No one wants to watch a child take their own life, yet the choice was presented several times throughout the movie and ending it this way is more palatable. And as for the family being real, when all life is doomed anyway, Why Not invite another person’s company? Love is the only good thing left and the only thing that can be assured of besides death.

    • Andrew Brannigan September 4, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      I’m not sure about your theory. In the novel, it’s clearly stated that the veteran averted his eyes because an injury he had received earlier makes it impossible for his eye not to wander. The reason he’s referred to as “The veteran” is because McCarthy describes him as “a veteran of old skirmishes…” The veteran has had to fight to stay alive just like everybody else and he was badly wounded in a fight, the bones on one side of his face were broken and he is now incapable of keeping his eye from wandering.

      If Hillcoat had intended for the message at the end of the film to be that the boy was dead and that he had imagined a family had come to take him away, I’m sure that he would have imagined that his Father was with him instead.

      Life and humanity may indeed be doomed in the long run, but the fact that the veteran has a daughter means that it’s possible that one day the boy may have a son of his own.

  72. davey July 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    No no no – remember the father (Guy Pearce) of the family with the red head wife had no thumbs like the black guy. He was obviously part of a much larger group the boy and his father were unaware of. You missed this clear answer – the boy was willing to help people and it tied together that the black guy found his clothes again and a can of food that had been left behind hence why Guy Pearce’s character asked if that was his dad, word had gotten back to Guy Pearce. Thats when the family started tracking them. Although it did throw me off because I would assume that it was the family’s dog at the shelter much earlier, dunno. I wish we could have seen more on what happened to begin with (nuclear winter?).

    • Andrew Brannigan July 15, 2013 at 1:09 am #

      The missing thumbs were pure artistic license on the part of the director – the novel clearly states that the thief had the fingers of his right hand cut off for stealing from a commune.

      The thief was an outcast – he wasn’t “with” anyone or part of any group. He was excommunicated and banished because he stole. He certainly wasn’t part of any organized group. If he was, then why would he have been alone, dressed in rags and practically unarmed except for a rusty kitchen knife?

      The veteran came across the man and the boy at some undermined point and immediately recognized that they were different. But he couldn’t approach the man because there’s zero trust between strangers in that world.

      As for what happened initially to bring about the destruction, there’s been a lot of speculation, This thread and others like it have covered that question in depth from many different angles. McCarthy himself has stated that there is no answer to the question – it’s whatever the reader imagines it to be. But due to the fact that there is no mention of radiation, I would personally rule out nuclear warfare as the cause.

      Other observations that people have made about the veteran averting his eyes and such are explained in the novel. The veteran suffered an injury that broke a few bones in his face. It’s difficult for him to smile and one eye wanders.

  73. Kevin September 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    The author is perverted if he thinks they kept the boy for sex. That thought would never have entered my mind at all. You’re such a faggot for even thinking that. I’m actually offended that you would think that. Who would have sex with the little boy?? The veteran? The motherly figure?? Stupid, disgusting article.

    • Andrew Brannigan September 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

      As sick, demented and appalling as that thought would be to any decent human being, the plain and simple truth is that people are capable of doing some unspeakable things in the world we live in now. Imagine the horrors people would be capable of in a world that in any way resembled the one presented in “the Road.”

      At one point in the novel, the man and his wife are discussing the merits of suicide. The wife’s logic is that the man would be unable to protect her and their child from being raped and killed for food.

      The characters in this poignant tale aren’t living in a world that’s primarily populated by good and decent human beings. Those that have managed to survive until the time that the story picks up have done so because they have reverted to animalistic instincts. They concern themselves with themselves – not others. To one of those despicable creatures that hunts human beings for food, to harm a child in such a sickening way would not be something they would think twice about.

  74. Alice September 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    This film makes me feel depressed.

  75. EnderPumpkin September 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Now you do make valid points but the point of having a loose ending is so that it can be discussed. Now by you being an asshole and saying that people who think it could end good are naive, anything you said I won’t take into account. I lean more toward the side that it didn’t end good but I felt that it should have ended good. On a side note, you can’t be biased when considering an open ending like this ass wipe.

  76. VR December 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    The main blog post just seems to miss the entire point of the story to me. For the record I have not read the book. I just saw this movie on Netflicks about an hour ago. Never even heard of it. But it is pretty rare I watch a movie and actually feel compelled to look up what people have to say about it.

    To me that was the point of the story. It is only a reflection of yourself and what you see in it. If your opinion is that they story continued with cannibalistic sex rings and that was the point to the author writing this – to show us how naive we all are it just feels really contrived to me. Sure you can find things to support that in the story – but it is a literary piece – the main theme and point to the entire journey is people holding on to the last threads of humanity and trying to survive despite the significant odds against them (and not become blood thirsty animals as they do it) – To still retain some sense of being ‘good guys.’

    If the Father and Son made it all that way to the end to just get eaten I guess we are all just f*cked. But that is a much less complex, simple minded theme to leave a reader with. The piece poses a question about what path of life you will lead – it isn’t just a story about a bunch of people dying and the smartest cannibals that have ever lived. To disagree with your analysis (the main blog post) does not make people naive – your analysis in general is narrow focused and fairly superficial.

    You can debate ‘what happens after’ till you are sick to death. but I don’t think the point was meeting a really smart canniabal family – but to let that even be arguable is what i think made this a really great deep story.

    The mother says go to the coast – we know nothing of what lies beyond what the Man and Boy have seen during the movie. There is nothing that can tell us what the rest of the planet is like and its conditions. If it is not a journey of hope for something more only to get to the conclusion and find out ‘hey, surprise there isn’t anything and now we are going to eat you and sex you’ that just seems like a pointless novel to write.

    Regardless you are entitled to your opinion – this was mine on first view… I suppose I am just as fatalistic…

    Personal Thoughts and interpretation on first view –

    My first thought (of the movie) – the boy picked up the gun after his father died and I thought I was going to see a child blow his head off…. Instead he tucked it in his belt.

    The next thing that happens is he finds what really seems to be the ‘nuclear’ family of this cataclysmic event. I immediately believed (at least from this movie) it was a total hallucination – now that his father was dead and no longer there to tell him to quit believing in good things or trust or any of the above. Just like when he ‘saw’ the boy earlier in the movie. His father kept telling him to STOP. But he just needed to see it….. He just needed to see that family.

    To me –
    The redheaded woman looks just like the woman killed with a kid (the daughter maybe?) by the cannibals – the dog was heard and talked about a few times in the movie – the boy he saw (or thought he saw) while his father was at his old home – and the man that first approached him on the beach looked really similar, to me anyway, to the cannibal at the start of the movie that his Dad shot in the head.

    Then i just imagined him standing on the beach alone blowing his head off after having this fantasy … or “his good dream” which was a very important line in the movie – good dreams tell you you have given up. He also asks his father ‘what would you do if i died.’ And his dad said go with you I wouldn’t want to be here. So it wasn’t a huge leap for me to believe the kid would just kill himself – what more does he really know? His dad tried to kill him like 3 or 4 times in the movie. It wasn’t some far fetched or abstract thing to the kid.

    After watching it again and reading some of these replies (especially the first and intial blog post I really didn’t agree with at all) it really is just ambiguous. I do think I agree with most of Andrew Brannigan’s points in this thread. I am sure having read the book would of helped me get better conclusions about it – but it really is just symbolic of hope, not death.

    No matter if he lived or died at very least there was a future seeing those people at the end- even if it was just a hallucination – at least he was still one person left in the world that still had the power to dream positively. His dads comment about good dreams meaning you give up can really just be taken as a very cynical way of viewing the world as his Dad gives up more and more on people and life – I could really argue that people that only dream bad dreams are the ones that have really given up.

    Nutrideath – awesome allegory comments – and the person that believed the sounds at the end were of what he heard in the womb…. I tend to agree with that.

    Either way this post is like 5 years late so …. Just gotta say, great story, great to see people actually thought about it.

  77. Jelle Jongmans January 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    I love all of the interpetations everybody wrote and I have to agree that all of them might be the truth but to mee it seems everyone forgets one option.
    Just before the son and the father find the beach the son finds a beatle, witch to me indicates that farther down the coast things might be better.
    So it might have been a familie that really found him.
    But the tracking (very strange indeed, and the fantasies and all that makes it a bit hard)
    Yet it gives me a feeling that live is short and best lived to the fullest and pure with truth and with goodness from the heart.

    Trying being one of the good guys =)

  78. Tommy January 15, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    In the book it is not mentioned that the family has a dog. Additionally in the book the boy does not see a boy at the father’s house or hear a dog while in the fallout shelter, these are all added in by the director and/or the writers. In the end of the book the woman is very spiritual holding prayers with the boy and even hugs him.

    • Tommy January 15, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

      I’d also like to end that the book ends on a happy note with the boy (and presumably the family) finding streams with brook trout in them and vegetation.

      • Andrew Brannigan January 15, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

        That’s not entirely accurate, Tommy. While it’s true that the book ends on a relatively hopeful note with the boy finding a family of good people who, like he and his father, are supposedly “carrying the fire”, the mention of brook trout in the streams is meant to represent the past, not the present. The most hopeful note is that the veteran has a daughter. One day, the boy will grow to be a man and the veteran’s daughter will grow to be a woman thus enabling the boy to possibly have a child of his own one day.

        It’s never mentioned that the family has a dog, but it’s interesting to note that the passage in the novel where the man recalls having heard a dog is the only part of the book that’s narrated in the first-person rather than the third-person. “The dog that he remembers followed us for three days…” So despite the fact that no solid connection between the veteran and his family and the dog can be made, the presence of a dog is significant. When the man enters a barn while the boy is still asleep, he detects the lingering odor of cows and realizes that cows are extinct. As are all other forms of life save for human beings (as far as the man knows) so if there is a dog alive somewhere, that would be significant.

  79. john scott July 1, 2014 at 12:50 am #

    I they were man eaters surely they would have eaten the boys farther. Why would they walk away from an easy meal?

  80. thehappyhuskie July 24, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    I know I am late to this, but one theory why he was using a butane lighter is that the man actually sucked at survival. He and his son had finally realized (prior to the beginning of the book) that they could not survive on their current lifestyle and had to set out to the ocean. A move that didn’t pay off and doesn’t really make sense.

    If you look carefully, the father makes a number of terrible survival errors. He is a common man. In all societies there is going to be a median population, not terrible at surviving, but not great at it. The family at the end may just be better at survival.

  81. Justin W October 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    I think we have more than enough evidence to draw a logical conclusion about the Boy, the Vet, and his family. I don’t really see enough evidence to support the notion of the family being good guys and the ending playing out exactly as it was written/directed. Excluding that conclusion we’re only left with the possibilities of 1.) The family are cannibals who have been stalking the Man and the Boy for some time or 2.) The entire thing is in the Boy’s mind. The cannibal idea makes the most sense to me out of all the possible scenarios. If you ignore the story and simply focus on the setting it seems completely improbable that one guy with a rifle, no matter how much ammunition he has, could keep his wife, two kids, and dog alive without resorting to nefarious methods. Even with an outrageous weapon like a SCAR 17 with a 100 round drum and optics and sufficient training it would be extremely difficult for one man to defend 3 unarmed people and a dog by himself when facing a mob of cannibals. Now we’re faced with the issue of if they were tracking the boy and the man, and they aren’t cannibals, where were their supplies? 4 people and a dog constantly on the move for weeks to months would require a decent amount of food. Where are they getting it? If the supply bunker was theirs why wouldn’t they reveal themselves to the man and boy then? The obvious stockpiling of supplies would mean they aren’t cannibals and there would be no reason for either one to fear them. If we examine what happens against everything that was said, I don’t see any alternative other than the family was eating the people that the Man and Boy came across. The old man in the road disappears after he encounters the pair, as does the thief. In fact the only people we can 100% confirm walked the same path after the Man and Boy and lived were the Vet and his family. Given the amount of time that passes between seeing other people and the fact that the pre-established cannibals have already been stockpiling humans, I think its unlikely that all these people were killed/taken by some force OTHER the vet. Every other character we meet (excluding cannibals) goes missing after meeting the Boy and Man and we know exactly who the next group of people they would logically encounter is. Now as to why the man didn’t immediately kill the boy when he sees him if he is a cannibal, I think its an issue of quantity. Realistically how much meat do you think a starving adolescent has on his bones? At the moment I think the kid is more useful alive than as food. Even if the plan is to eat him right on the spot, why waste the ammunition? Its a starving, grieving, isolated boy who has a gun with one round in it. Im sure working ammunition is worth more than gold, if I CAN get food without wasting a vital resource why wouldn’t I? Also why would this family wait 3 days to approach the boy? Either they were tracking the Man and the Boy and were 3 days behind constantly, or they were much closer and chose to wait until they were absolutely sure the Man was dead. The latter seems much more likely based on the fact the Boy heard the dog and saw the other boy. If they were constantly 3 days behind the Man should have no idea they’re being followed nor should they have had any contact with the boy. Even if the intent wasn’t for the family to eat the Boy and the Man they were almost certainly using them as a distraction or an unintentional scout. The Vet never gives any indication that he knew the Man was going to die soon and that the boy would need help. He just pretty much appears out of nowhere and says “hey i’ve been following you for a while now, want to come with me?”

    As for it being in the Boy’s mind, If you want to assume that he hallucinated the boy and hearing the dog prior, then it would make sense that he was hallucinating the family because he’s given up. Like the Man says, when you have good dreams its because you’ve given up. I think finding a nuclear family with supplies and a dog in an apocalypse filled with cannibals is probably the best thing you could dream.

    Alternatively you could look at ending as a lesson in trust. It could be argued that everything that happens to the Man and the Boy is as a result of the Man’s inability to trust others (for good reason) despite the fact he knows he cant do it all alone. You could view the ending (specifically when the the boy asks the vet “how do I know can I trust you?” and he replies “you dont, you just have to trust me”) as that the Boy will be ok now because he decided to take a leap of faith and trust a group of strangers at a time when humanity is not trustworthy. I still think that the Vet is a cannibal, but you can read the ending many ways.

  82. joim February 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    They built up the being followed quite a bit without resolution. Totally agree its naive to think happy ending. The children and the boy would be “livestock” most likely. Used for whatever purpose and just like the dog, edible when needed. You don’t have pets in such a world, nor do you take in the baggage of others. They waited for the father to die like a cat exhausting a mouse, to minimize risk to self because to be harmed in a harsh world like that is an unacceptable risk. Once dad died, the boy was an easy addition to their livestock. They took the point to show human livestock in a cellar also. Possibly among that group, thus their being well fed, and well enough to feign hope for a higher grade of food (or sex to trade/etc)

    Not shown but in all likely hood someone with them likely went to recover dads body and the boy may well eat of it, until his use is up for their tactic and he himself is eaten. Harsh, not happy go hopey is the whole thing.

  83. Heather March 21, 2016 at 5:17 am #

    Wasn’t the little boy the one that the little boy saw while his dad was inside sitting on the couch after he have the ugly floral cushion foreplay and he was out playing with his toy. And coloring…that was probably a way to coax the kid when his father wasn’t looking or a mistake when they were spying. Of only the dad would’ve listened to his son then he would’ve known about those freaks. and why follow them? Because you’re rightabout the sex part. Plus what the woman says at the end did not sound right. I wouldn’t have been convinced. And why take on another mouth to feed? They are benefiting somehow.

    • Andrew Brannigan March 21, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      There are several scenes in the novel that seem almost dreamlike and the reader can’t really be sure that the events being described are actually happening or if they’re dream sequences or something similar. For example, when the man and the boy are huddled in the dead orchard and awaken to witness the army on the march, the scene is described in such a manner as to hint that it might actually be happening. The same is true for the scene where the man’s son sees another boy in a yard across the street as his father searches through the remains of his childhood home.

      We can’t know for certain whether the boy actually did see another child and it would be impossible to say whether that boy was the veteran’s son if he did indeed exist. But we do know that if the boy that the man’s son saw back at the house is the same boy that he is introduced to later, that the veteran and his family would have gone to a LOT of trouble and traveled MANY miles to pursue them.

      Judging by the clues in the novel, we can surmise that the man’s childhood home was somewhere in rural western or central Kentucky, probably less than a day’s walk from Knoxville. We can glean this from the clues about the dam, the pass at 5,000 feet, etc. We can also trace the man and boy’s journey from there, across the Appalachians, to the coast. It’s highly doubtful that the veteran and his family would have committed to following the man and his son for such a vast distance. How would they have managed to stay far enough out of sight to avoid being noticed, yet remain close enough to ensure that they didn’t lose their trail?

      Not to mention that if they WERE shadowing the man and his son, why would they have waited until the man was already dead to approach the boy? There were plenty of other opportunities and if they really were cannibals, then they more than likely wouldn’t have been willing to hang back for another three days after the man died. That would just be completely foolish and none of it makes any sense.

      Looking at the film, we see many of the same holes in the theory. The distance is the same. The man and the son first begin to believe that they are being followed when they are taking shelter in the bunker. It’s highly unlikely that the veteran and his family would have passed up the opportunity to avail themselves of the bounty in the bunker in order to pursue a frail, dying man and his terrified young son. In such a scenario, how would someone attempting to track a pair of people on foot even begin to guess at the direction they might have taken? Tracks didn’t remain in the ash. You cannot track footprints in dead leaves which crumble to dust underfoot. There are literally countless paths that a pair of people on foot could take and it would be absolutely impossible even to begin to guess in which direction they’d headed.

      And lastly, the novel explicitly details the aftermath and makes it abundantly clear that the veteran and his wife are good people. While the film may be more ambiguous, that would essentially be artistic license on the part of the director for the ending to differ so much in that regard.

      While it can be argued that the veteran and his family are really nothing more than a hallucination in the boy’s mind as he starves to death beside his father’s corpse, it would be a stretch to believe that the veteran and his family tracked the two for hundreds of miles only to sit idly by as the man died in his sleep and the boy huddled with his body for half a week.

  84. Heather March 21, 2016 at 5:29 am #

    If you listen while the casting rolls u hear talking and the dog barking…but i cant make out a word…i wonder if that gives away what to interpret about th ending..

  85. max April 10, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    i believe the same about those people. But i dont think the kid is fucked, If he’s smart he will survive for long

  86. Randy August 21, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    I’m with you. Immediately you get the sense that he isn’t a good guy. Definitely wasn’t scared of another human with a gun because he walked straight up to the boy with no hesitation. His thumbs were gone which lead me to believe that he kept him and his woman alive by eating them. The kids didn’t look happy at all. They looked like captives. I think they just followed small families around, killed the weakest parents to eat them and were growing the kids for harvest at a later date. And the woman just spewed out a bunch of ,”feel good,”, words to make the boy come willingly.

  87. Benjamin Thomas Hubble March 28, 2017 at 4:39 am #

    You’re taking the film literally. This film was a piece of art. He was raised by his father and when it came time his father let him go to become a man like all fathers do. the man with the family he meets at the end, is actually a metaphor of the boy meeting himself grown up.

    • Benjamin Thomas Hubble March 28, 2017 at 4:44 am #

      & if you were to befriend people and show them to your children before killing them and eating them it would just arise to many complications. Little thing called human emotions there. So even your literal interpretation doesn’t make sense.

  88. starlightflash June 18, 2017 at 5:05 am #

    Wow, I didn’t approach the ending the way you did it but it makes sense. Damn! The first humans he encounters and he already fails. But mind that after boy and man left their hide in the cellar, the “family” could have taken over and ate all the food they left behind.
    But you are right, they could have eaten Eli and the black man. I still don’t get why viggo stripped that poor guy naked even though he spared the life of his son. He had already enough clothes for himself.

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