The World as a Wasteland in Post-Apocalyptic Literature Essay

The World as a Wasteland in Post-Apocalyptic Literature Essay

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For years, post-modern writers have foreshadowed what the end of the world would look like through dramatic representations in literary works. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx & Crake, are no exception to this. Delving into the complexities that underlie man’s existence on Earth, these authors use their novels as vehicles to depict a post-apocalyptic world, in which all that once was is reduced to an inconceivable wasteland, both figuratively and literally.
From the beginning, McCarthy establishes a stage for his readers with a beautifully worded yet painstakingly morose description of the wasteland in which his characters occupy: “Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before (McCarthy 3). Throughout the novel, the author makes a number of similar statements as he continuously conjures images of this “desolate country” in a markedly horrendous way. Through vivid imagery and a blend of short, choppy sentences to show the disconnectedness of the world, McCarthy successfully paints a picture of a bleak land, one that appears, at most times, to be completely uninhabited: “The land was gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes. Middens of anonymous trash” (McCarthy 177). McCarthy also pays particular attention to the smallest, minute details that enable readers to visualize the new world. When describing the road, for example, the author seeks not to reveal the crevices of a heavily traveled path of asphalt, but instead to depict the electrical appliances scattered about the side of the road; the apple orchards in ruin, dark and deformed. These are the images of the world, or at least of what remains of the world, that stick ...


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...as been done is not an advancement of society, but instead a desecration. Upon realizing this, he takes what appears to be his only way out: death.
Once all has been said and done, one is able to come to one final conclusion about post-apocalyptic literature in the 21st century. No matter what it includes, or lacks, the predominance of the wasteland mentality is simply unavoidable in post-apocalyptic literature. The subject matter offers too rich of substance for it to be neglected, and for that reason writers like McCarthy and Atwood play it up in their respective novels. Given the chance to create scenic images and that one might never be afforded the opportunity to, these authors use their novels as a medium for foreshadowing a world that could be if humans continue at the rate they are going. Now, the only question is if their predictions will ever come true.

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