I didn't read it that way. Several paragraphs back, when the boy encounters the man he is told that there was some discussion about not coming back for him.
During the book there is the constant reference that the boy and his father feel as though they are being watched. I read the last paragraph to mean that the boy and the man were under a constant survelliance by another group for a long time already. I believe this very group was watching them in the town when the boy claimed to have heard a dog barking and then later claimed to have seen the only other little boy found in the book.
When the man arrives he tells the boy that he is with other people including children and I read this to mean that he was also with the woman.
The woman tells the boy that she is so glad to see him, that she would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but recieved no answer so he continued to speak to his father as he was requested shortly before his father died. The woman would also talk to him about how breath is shared between people. I would think that once you were dead breathing is unnecessary and the great mystery regarding the Supreme Being would have already been revealed. McCarthy certainly had the "other side" on his mind when he wrote this one.
You could be right though, Cormac is a crafty writer although I haven't encountered any ghosts in his other works, just people already turned into ghosts or well on their way.
Yes, that woman certainly is perplexing (and haunting, as I'm sure she's meant to be). The text simply does not identify her, so we cannot know who she is. What we do know, after the death of his father, is that someone maternal will now care for the boy, at least for a while. It seems to me that this encapsulates all the tiny, faint hope and all the epicmeaning of The Road.
My take on CM is that if you are looking for the allegorical, you are missing the point. Blood Meridian was blurbed as "an allegory of American redemption through violence" when it was retelling of the Texas Santa Fe Expedition. I'm reading this as the same kind of writing about what might occur. It's all rough writing about rough times. It's all about the question: Is it better to die on your feet or to live on your knees?
The woman is not the boy's mother. She's the wife of the stranger/combat veteran that adopts the boy. The real mother,who was blind or half blind, was depressed and kills herself with a sharp flint obect before the story starts. This was revealed in the father's flashback. They cannot be the same woman. The stranger couple are probably from a heavily barricaded underground commune which was vaguely mentioned in book. The couple at the end are supposed to represent the "good guys" that there are still a few good people in an apocalyptic Earth now populated by cannibals.
I was under the impression the mother killed herself with the pistol. During the flashback, there is talk of three bullets in the gun, then when they encounter the first group of bandits, they have two, after the man shoots one of them to protect the boy they are left with a single bullet. Perhaps this is besides the point, but its the way I read it.
I also think the man and woman are either a family traveling alone or part of a bigger group. They have decided to reward the love of the father by taking his place as the boy's mentor, they have come back for him. The man tells the boy that "they" don't know how he and his father got as far as they did. At any rate, as the boy said earlier "I am the One". It is necessary for him to be taken care of because the nuclear winter will clear and human beings will go on and rebuild until the next time they try to destroy themselves.
No, she killed herself with a sharp flint object in some abandoned house or ruins. The third bullet went to the head of a threatening tattooed cannibal who was holding the son hostage. The tattooed cannibal came from a flatbed truck that the father and son encounters.
Unless you are considering that the woman is the boy's mother returned as an Angel, she is a completely new character. As for the number of bullets in the gun, at the beginning of the story, it is written that there are two, one for the father and one for the boy, if necessary. When the father shoots the tatooed cannibal, it leaves only one bullet which the father intends to save for the boy whether he shoots him or the boy must do it himself.
I am puzzled but am putting together the ending. Throughout the book, the Father discusses how he and the boy would die together, about saving two bullets. He has one bullet in the gun when he dies. There is a small passage where the Father says " I am the one making the decisions" or something to that affect, and the son mutters " I am the one making the decisions". I have re-read the ending multiple times and I believe the boy dies, probably self imposed,although the passage about walking out to the road may mean he was killed, and I will tell you why. The Father had discussed the possibility of suicide so the boy would have known that they were going to stay together, even in death. Secondly, why at the end would people show up who now were good. In other words, why would this tribe of people take on another mouth to feed? That makes no sense at all. Third, the final paragraph, to me, describes heaven. The boy kept the gun with him, he told the stranger he knew how to shoot it. I believe the boy took his life to be with his Dad, the only person he trusted. I think the woman was in fact his Mother, helping him across, and he was still talking to his Dad but wasn't yet with him. Re-read the final paragraph, tell me if it doesn't describe beauty, and paradise. Certainly not found on earth. As well, this Woman on earth wouldn't have said " I am so glad to see you" if she was a stranger. The only other possibility, as I see it, is that there was still some goodness on earth, but I am puzzled as to why it appeared at the end, versus throughout the book. And why would this tribe have been following the father and son for so long? Again, there was stealing and death for survival, not evidence of good will toward one another or the Father and son would have found that earlier.
.....Rebecca.... and maybe their whole thing about "there was some discussion about whether to even come after you at all..." could mean they were actually death or people who have already died. The man had a scar across his face and when he spoke his mouth worked imperfectly, like he was more of a vision than a person, maybe? I'm just guessing. If not, why would people follow them and then wait for the dad to die? Are they collecting children?
I think you are all making too much of this woman. I still think the man and woman and whomever is with them are all alive. It is part of the human condition to want to gather together for warmth and community. I think these people were gathering in survivors of whatever happened. They saw that the father was fading and that the boy would be alone. I think they are picking up people wherever they find them. The other thing about the boy is that he is young with his childbearing years ahead of him. He will be a building stone in the repopulation of the country. This group may watch to make sure the survivor is safe and a "good guy" before gathering them in. I keep remembering the story of Pandora - after all the woes and tragedies of the world were released, the last thing at the bottom of the bag was hope.
Since he loved his father so much, wouldn't that include his father. I believe the family are proof of the author'y. belief that at the bottom of the bag of the world's troubles, still lies Hope. I have since seen the film and was amazed at the number well acknowledged actors who appeared in cameos, probably for very little money.