Questions for Final Paper on
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
Assignment: Write a 5-page essay, double-spaced, on the following five issues. Make sure you cite from the text to substantiate your analysis of these issues. The rubric for grading your paper is based on the following format:
1. Clarity of your position in the paper: state your position/argument in the opening paragraph of the paper and state how you will be explaining or defending it — e.g. “In this essay I show how the question of responsibility can be exemplified through multiple theories of ethics. I begin with a discussion of the father’s responsibility to his unnamed child, showing how it exemplifies the theory (or theories) of …. I then proceed to …”
2. Strength of argument: make sure you create a coherent thread in the essay by linking one paragraph with the next so that the reader can find continuity in the paper.
3. Reliance on the text for backing up your position/argument: make sure you cite from the text to substantiate your analysis and criticism.
4. Linking the analysis to the theories of ethics/material you studies in this class: each one of the five topics includes a requirement that you relate your topic to one or another of the theories of ethics we studied, so make sure you do so.
(1) The responsibility of parents toward their children, and vice versa, with obvious focus on the father-son relation in the novel. What kind of responsibility does the father believe he has towards his son and how does it manifest itself in the novel? The same question goes for the son’s understanding of his responsibility towards his father. Where does the mother’s ethical stand belong in this question of responsibility? Can any of the moral theories we discussed in class — divine command theory, natural law ethics, moral egoism, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, or Kan’t ethics of duty be applied to shed light on this question of responsibility?
(2) The responsibility of people toward each other or toward strangers. How does the novel shed light on the kind of ethics that exists in the post-holocaust world when it comes to the question of our responsibilities to others? Are we obligated to people with whom we do not have a relationship? If so, in what way and how? What is the father’s and son’s attitude in this regard? Do you think cannibalism is justified in the post-holocaust world described in the novel? Is moral egoism the right choice?
(3) Responsibility toward God/goodness. Is there such a perspective in the novel? If so, where and how does it appear? Or, what does it mean to be responsible toward God/goodness and what does that tell us about the concept of God? Furthermore, is there a theory of ethics that is supported regarding this theme? If so, how and where in the text do you find this support?
(4) Responsibility of people toward the environment/nature/world. How does McCarthy describe people’s attitudes toward the world after the unspecified holocaust happened? Where does beauty fit in that world? Is that beauty ethical, aesthetic, spiritual? Do you think we have a responsibility to rebuild the world if a major catastrophe occurs? What questions does our dependence on the environment raise for you and how is the ethics of consumption and the environment relevant to this?
(5) Responsibility toward the future, including the future of humanity. In what way does our responsibility to the future show up in the novel? Give examples! Do you think cannibalism is contrary to that? Can you think of a way in which Peter Singer might address the question of our responsibility to the future generations? How would utilitarianism and the ethics of care fit in this theme of responsibility?