From the beginning, the man shows a ruthless survivalism and unshakeable loyalty to the boy. He scrounges meticulously and uses ingenious methods to find food and fuel. His actions demonstrate how he has kept himself and the boy going through extremely difficult times. Many times during the action of the novel, he runs when he has no breath left in him, or he goes days without food when necessary. The man is obsessive about supplies, always scavenging wherever he and the boy end up. He’s good at keeping the duo safe and proves to possess some skill at dressing wounds when he is hit by an arrow. But it’s also clear from the very beginning: the man does all this for the sake of the boy. When the boy is sick, the man does everything he can and holds the boy to him. The boy represents the man’s own will to survive. The boy is the only reason the man has to survive. 

The man also shows a capacity for strong emotions and a philosophical, even poetic perspective about the loss of his world. This perspective manifests itself in his dreams, where he remembers life as it was before the event that ended the world. He engages in seemingly pointless actions, like calling an old telephone number from a broken phone at an abandoned gas station and visiting his childhood home. He also frequently muses over the scope of what has been lost. He mourns the physical deaths of those around him but also the death of language and culture and the names of things. He laments the things the boy will never know. Though these actions and musings are not directly related to physical survival, they illustrate how important ideas are to the man’s survival personally. They give him hope, which he then pours into the boy. Thus, keeping the boy alive represents keeping hope alive and gives the man something to live for. 

Death is a constant presence that haunts the man relentlessly. His dreams are either lush and beautiful, inviting him to death, or dark and strange, awaiting that inevitable death. It seems hard for the man to accept his own death, but only for the sake of the boy. He coughs and coughs and blood comes up, but still he persists and even carries the boy when needed. He knows the boy will not survive without him, and therefore feels that he cannot die. Yet he has no delusions; he knows his death is imminent and unavoidable. Therefore the essence of the man’s struggle throughout The Road is not so much the struggle to survive, but the struggle to maintain the will to survive and pass this on to the boy.