Quote 1

“I want you to drink it.
You have some. 
He took the can and sipped it and handed it back. You drink it, he said. Let’s just sit here.
It’s because I wont ever get to drink another one, isnt it?
Ever’s a long time.
Okay, the boy said.”

In Section 2, the man and the boy explore an abandoned supermarket, and the man finds an overturned vending machine. Inside is a rarity in this dead world, a can of Coca-Cola. The man insists that the boy drink it and enjoy it. The boy demands that his father takes a sip as well, showing his merciful, generous nature. The boy seems more prescient here than at other times, pointing out that this will likely be the first and last Coca-Cola he will ever drink. The father’s response, “Ever’s a long time,” is a weak attempt at maintaining a positive attitude despite the devastation of their lives. The father is incidentally proved correct later on, when the family drinks Coca-Cola in the well-prepared bunker in Section 9. However, this small exchange between father and son is important in the course of the novel because it shows the boy’s burgeoning maturity. The Coca-Cola here stands in for all the contrivances and luxuries of the world that is now gone and will never return. All that is gone still lives in the man’s memory, but the boy has no memories of the time before the catastrophe. Here, the boy defines his world for the first time, showing his father that he knows something his coming fate in this life, and will never know the world as it once was.

Quote 2

“He held the boy close to him. So thin. My heart, he said. My heart. But he knew that if he were a good father still it might well be as she had said. That the boy was all that stood between him and death.”

From the beginning of the novel, it’s clear that the man’s only goal is to keep his boy alive in this dead world, but the man struggles with the concept in Section 3. He is mostly ambivalent to his own death, but as a father he cannot bear the idea of his boy dying. He considers something the mother of the boy had told him, that the boy was all that would stand between him (the man) and death. The truth of this also shakes him, since the man hadn’t before considered his own desire for death and release. He is acknowledging the bare reality that the boy is all that keeps him alive. Shaken, perhaps for the first time over his own death, the man holds the boy close and whispers, “My heart, my heart.” The man is fully invested in the boy’s life, though perhaps not as invested in his own. The woman had called out this paradox, this inexorable truth. As long as the boy lives, the man will fight with everything he has to keep the boy alive, regardless of his own wish for death.

Quote 3

“We’re going to be okay, arent we Papa?
Yes. We are. 
And nothing bad is going to happen to us. 
That’s right.
Because we’re carrying the fire.
Yes. Because we’re carrying the fire.”

In Section 7, the boy repeats a litany his father has taught him about “carrying the fire.” Perhaps one of the most difficult things for the father to handle is that his son has no memories or conceptions of the world as it once was. This litany, a phrase the father surely has taught the boy, is a reassurance. Like the “good guys” and “bad guys,” this phrase is a way to make sense out of the senseless world. The boy imagines others like them, “carrying the fire” through difficult times, and keeping humanity’s symbolic flame burning. One can infer the difficulty the father faces, traveling the world alone with a boy who knows nothing of why they must continue to survive. At times, the boy wishes for death. The man, while not impervious to this line of thinking himself, does everything he can to keep the boy alive. The idea of “carrying the fire” is the best he can come up with, and it is repeated many times throughout the story. Fire, the symbol of life in this dead world, represents the survival of the human spirit. It is unclear whether this flame will die or not.

Quote 4

“There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasnt about death. He wasnt sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or goodness. Things that he’d no longer any way to think about at all.”

Brought to tears by the end of all things in Section 9, the man weeps not over his impending death, or the death of the boy, but over the lost world he knew. As seen in the sharp contrast to the man’s vivid dreaming life, the dreary, gray world offers no beauty or goodness. The man weeps because he carries the memories of the world, the names of animals and plants, and the idea of beauty. But these are fading in his mind and gone from the external world already. The man weeps over the death of knowledge. He cannot show his son beauty, because there is none left. The boy does not know goodness, because there is none left. Death is not to be wept over, because it is inevitable. The knowledge he possesses, however, slowly leaks out and disappears in front of his eyes. The man rages against a world gone wrong, and his inability to save precious things and the names they were known by.

Quote 5

“I’m scared, he said. Do you understand? I’m scared.
The boy didnt answer. He just sat there with his head bowed, sobbing.
You’re not the one who has to worry about everything.
The boy said something but he couldn’t understand him. What? he said.
He looked up, his wet and grimy face. Yes I am, he said. I am the one.”

In Section 14, the man’s admission that he is scared seems to have no effect on the boy, so the father lashes out in anger. This scene of an exasperated parent reveals the boy’s inner thoughts in heartbreaking clarity. When the man chastises the boy and claims that he is the only one “who has to worry about everything” the boy destroys the man’s weak argument. Foreshadowing the man’s death, the boy tells his father that he is, in fact, the one who must worry about everything, because his father will soon be gone. The boy also represents the future of humanity. Once the father is gone, it will be the boy’s responsibility to carry on and survive, to “carry the fire.” Up to this point, the reader has only felt the immense pressure the man faces in keeping his child alive. In a sudden turn, we realize that the boy carries more pressing anxieties than previously thought. The man, who always takes control and makes the decisions, is fading. The boy, who has been innocent and vulnerable, now must step into his father’s role. In a twisted coming-of-age moment, the boy tells his father indirectly that he faces the immense pressure of survival.