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What is the extinction event that happened in the movie "The Road"?

Did an asteroid hit or a super-volcano eruption? Does anybody know for sure what the director intended it to be?

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I was wondering the same thing, especially because of the way the beginning of the 'apocalypse' was depicted (flashback scene in the beginning of the movie). Papa (Viggo Mortensen) looks out of the window, is startled, and turns the water on everywhere. In the background is some screaming from outside. But that is really all that is shown to us... – poepje Mar 24 '14 at 23:32
up vote 13 down vote accepted

I don't believe the director (or McCarthy for that matter) intended the audience/readers to know what cataclysm caused the apocalyptic backdrop for the drama. It is not specified in either McCarthy's novel or the film - and is left ambiguous so that we may focus more on the situation at hand, rather than the causes and 'finger-pointing'.

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