The Burning Core: Using Heraclitus's concept of an arche of fire to examine humanity's connection with nature in Cormac McCarthy's The Road

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Treating Cormac McCarthy's The Road as an ecocritical work, this article uses Heraclitus's arche of fire as a new methodological lens through which to examine the text. In particular, it asks how readers can derive hope from such a materialistically bleak novel. Heraclitus was a Presocratic philosopher from fifth century BCE Greece. He was a material monist, who claimed that fire was the principle element of the universe, or arche: the preserving and destroying element from which the cosmos came, to which it will return, and by which it will be judged. This principality of fire is reflected in the supra-religious moralistic metaphor that “good guys” in The Road “carry the fire.” This interpretation challenges Daniel Luttrell's claim that fire in The Road aligns to the Promethean myth, demonstrating that Heraclitus's arche of fire may offer a more holistic interpretation of the metaphor, particularly when combined with Marcel D. DeCoste, Matthew Mullins, and Erik J. Wielenberg's theories of community as morality within The Road. Fire is shown to represent the intrinsic, ambiguous interconnectedness of humankind—and that the defining moral choice of The Road's inhabitants is simply whether they acknowledge it, both in terms of the community of humanity, and humanity's communion with nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-112
Number of pages13
JournalThe Cormac McCarthy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

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