Part 2 – Project 4: Exercise 1

Project 4 starts by giving us an extract from The Road by Cormac McCarthy and asks us to re-write a few lines of the extract using different types of narrator:

• First person narrator – from the point of view of the man (I pushed the cart…)

“I pushed the cart and both me and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case we had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that I used to watch the road behind us. I shifted the pack higher on my shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? I said. The boy nodded. We set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, the boy my world entire.”

• Second person – as if you were the man (You pushed the cart…)

“You pushed the cart and both you and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case you had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that you used to watch the road behind you. You shifted the pack higher on your shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? You said. The boy nodded. You set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, the boy your world entire.”

• If McCarthy had chosen the third person limited point of view, think about the difference between telling this story from the boy’s POV or the man’s.

In this short extract, telling the story from the man’s POV wouldn’t lead to much difference, other than possibly the last line:

They set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

It’s probable that both characters know that they are each other’s only companions in this world, so this sentence could still make sense from the man’s POV, or it could be changed to say ‘…the boy his world entire.’

If we change the POV to the boy’s, the main difference is that, after the man shifts his pack and looks ‘out over the wasted country’, the boy wouldn’t know that he saw the road was empty or any of the other things that he sees, unless he chose to tell him:

He shifted the pack higher on his shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? He said.

From the boy’s POV, the story would go straight from the man looking, to him asking if he’s okay.

Again the last line could change from ‘…each the other’s world entire.’ to ‘…the man his world entire’.

• What impact does changing the narrative angle have on the story? Why do you think McCarthy decided to use an omniscient narrator?

In this short extract, the impact of telling the story in a third person limited from the boy’s POV is that we would lose the detail that added to the sense of ‘barrenness’ in the landscape around them. It’s only a small change, but it’s important to know in this first part of the story as it really sets the scene.

Changing to third person limited from the man’s POV doesn’t really change much here, so the fact that McCarthy has used an omniscient narrator, suggests to me that further on in the story it will be important for us to see and feel things from both of these character’s viewpoints.

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