The Man (The Father)

A survivor of the apocalyptic event and the protagonist of the story. The man is gentle and caring with his son, but prone to outbursts of anger or frustration. He is a survivalist, whose instincts have kept him and the boy alive on the road. The man certainly thinks about God and religion, though he is not evidently a religious person. The man lives now only for the life of his son.

Read an in-depth analysis of the man.

The Boy (The Son)

A child born shortly after the apocalyptic event. The boy depends on his father for survival but shows a strong tendency toward mercy throughout the story. The boy advocates for helping almost every person the father and son meet on the road. The boy’s fixation with a little boy he claims to see in a burned-out city may be a reflection of himself. The boy expresses a strong desire to take care of the boy, hinting that he desires to be taken care of as well.

Read an in-depth analysis of the boy.

The Pale Bride (The Woman)

A survivor of the apocalyptic event who gives birth to the boy. The woman expresses an anti-survivalist perspective before ultimately killing herself. She scoffs when the man says they are “survivors” of the catastrophe. Instead, she believes that they should be dead already, to avoid the inevitable horrors of rape, slavery, and murder as human society breaks down.

The Little Boy

The apparition of a small child seen by the boy. The boy fixates on the little boy and worries about him, while the father disbelieves that the little boy actually exists. A strong example of the growing divide between father and son, the boy worries over the little boy while the man discourages his son from desiring to help others.

The Old Man (Ely)

An old man with poor vision traveling on the road, and a reference to the prophet Eli from the Book of Samuel. In the story, Ely serves to reflect the boy’s kindness and reveal the growing separation between father and son. Ely is ambivalent to the help the boy offers him and speaks strangely with the man on the nature of death.

Read an in-depth analysis of Ely.

The Thief

A man who steals everything from the father and son. The father takes everything back from the thief at gunpoint and then takes the thief’s clothes and shoes as well. The boy later accuses the man of killing the thief by taking everything from him.

The Scarred Man

A man who rescues the boy after the father has died. Described as a “veteran of old skirmishes,” the scarred man carries a shotgun and interrogates the boy about his dead father and what the boy will do next. The boy asks the scarred man whether or not he eats people, and whether or not he is “one of the good guys.” It turns out the man is kind-hearted and takes the boy home to meet a motherly woman who embraces him.

The Woman

A mother who embraces the boy at the end of the story. She talks to the boy about God, but the boy is reticent, saying he only talks to his father, now dead. The woman is conciliatory on this point, drawing a connection between God and men.