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Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

another. Max shows the boy the music box, conveying to him a bit of civilization from the wreck with which the film opens. Its tune, "Happy Birthday to You," celebrates the rebirth of Max and the boy and the refinery community they assist. It is remarkable that reviewers should compare the film to Shane but overlook the central parallel of an older person providing a needed role model for a younger one and passing the torch of leadership and responsibility to a new society.

In a surprise ending, the narrator tells us in biblical tones, "In the fullness of the time I became the leader, the chief of the Great Northern Tribe," and we realize that the entire story has been presented to us by the Feral kid, that same dynamo of ferocity we might well have dismissed as lost, another emblem of desolation. And all of this, the postulation of a wasteland situation, the working out of its various social groups and relationships, the lavish attention to detail, and the biblical sonorities of its prologue and epilogue deserve not to be dismissed as affectation but hailed as achievement.

And so The Road Warrior presents us not with insignificant sound and fury but with a clear, consistent view of a torch being passed from Dying Society to Max to the Gyro Captain to the Feral Kid. The talisman of this process is the music box, whose tune, "Happy Birthday to You" announces the start of the new age. By working together, even against their will, Max is recalled to life, the Gyro Captain's abilities receive scope, the Feral Kid becomes the strong leader, the refinery community's hard work pays off in the founding of a new world, the darkness is driven back, and selfish, feral savagery is again harnessed in the service of growth and renewal.


NOTES
1.
It may be of importance to some viewers that the war preceding the film is not necessarily nuclear. The lengthy prologue tells us that "two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all," but apparently they were not incinerated by that "blaze," for afterward "their leaders talked and talked and talked" and their cities exploded in a "whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear." Thus does Miller establish a believable setting in which nuclear winter is not a factor, nor such pervasive radiation as the survivors faced in another postholocaust classic, On the Beach.
2.
Charles Michener, "Shane in Black Leather," Newsweek, May 31, 1982, pp. 67, 70; Lawrence O'Toole, "Shoot-out at the Apocalyptic Corral," MacLean's, May 31, 1982, p. 58, Michael Sragow, "'Road Warrior': Art Wrecko," Rolling Stone, June 24, 1982, pp. 25, 27; Pauline Kael, "The Current Cinema," New Yorker 58, 29 ( September 6, 1982), pp. 96-99.

-205-

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