This "117" post is getting so long that I am dividing it into two parts! In the first part, "Anton" is the key to "117" in No Country For Old Men, and the non-"117" "Anton" has resonance too in The Road. The "117" in The Road could be read merely as a nod to himself, to the "117" in No Country For Old Men. But I also think "117" has its own meaning in The Road independent of No Country For Old Men, and it is once again a date rather than a Biblical reference. But first I'd have to talk a little about Hamlet's Mill, which I thank Candy Minx for recommending to me some years ago.
Hamlet's Mill is grand and looping and suggestive ... the reading experience was like a rollercoaster ride. One main thesis, in my reading of the book, is that many of the world's apocalyptic and creationist myths can be traced to explanations of the earth's precession. Ancient civilizations were capable of detecting and measuring the earth's wobble, which makes one revolution every 26,000 years or so. If the sky-clock is divided into twelve segments, such as the zodiac, then the earth's precessional clock-hand moves from one zodiac sign to the next once every two millennia plus some years. Due to the direction of the precession, the order would be in the reverse order as the signs would go from month to month; i.e., instead of going from Capricorn to Aquarius to Pisces etc., the order would be from Aries to Pisces to Aquarius etc. The zodiac sign the precession is moving toward is said to be rising, while the zodiac sign moving away from is said to be going south, or sinking below the horizon or into the ocean. The ending of one zodiacal age giving way to the beginning of another, simply due to the earth's precession, is the real meaning of apocalyptic myths, according to Hamlet's Mill.
Christianity taps into the symbolism of the mythology. The age of Aries yielded to the age of Pisces at about the time of Christ, and so a pair of fish has been a symbol of Christ. Now, two millennia later, the age of Pisces will soon yield to the age of Aquarius. I think The Road is an apocalyptic myth about this current changing of the ages.
The apocalyptic event in The Road occurs as the son is about to be born; the father represents the old age of Pisces, the son the new age of Aquarius. The first and immediate act of the father is filling the tub with water, to herald the age of Aquarius, the water-bearer. The father feels a need to go south with the son. The father believes that the south would be warmer, but there is no evidence for that, no explanation why they have not already done so in prior years. The father also feels a need to go toward water, the ocean. The acts of "going south" and "sinking into the ocean" are, as indicated above, the symbolic motions of the ending zodiacal age due to the earth's precession. When the father reaches the ocean, he sees all those dead fish carcasses in the water, symbolizing the death of the age of Pisces; he even swims into their midst to link himself symbolically with them. (In a flashback earlier, the dead perch in his uncle's lake is a foreshadow; later, the woman says "once there were brook trout".) Shortly after reaching his goal, the father realizes, even decides, it is time for him to die. As the father is dying, the son bring him a cup of water, a proper role for a representative of Aquarius, the water-bearer.
I think "117" in The Road is once again a date, one which marks the beginning of Aquarius by two ancient Western works. On the Roman calendar, January 17 is when the sun begins, at day's end, its course in Aquarius. There are two Roman sources for this: Ovid's Fasti and Columella's De Re Rustica.
In Ovid's Fasti ("Roman Festival Days"), Book I is about January, and lines 651-652 are about January 17:
"Haec ubi transierint, Capricorne, Phoebe, relicto,
Per juvenis curres signa gerentis aquam."
Which translates to something like:
"When this [day] has passed, Phoebus [Apollo; light; the sun], leaving behind Capricorn,
Begins his course through the sign of the water-bearer [Aquarius]."
In Columella's De Re Rustica, Book XI, this is written about January 17:
"Cancer desinit occidere"
Which translates to something like:
"Cancer finishes setting"
Since Cancer is directly opposite from Capricorn in the sky-clock, Columella is effectively saying the same thing as Ovid.
The scene toward the end of The Road, in which the light moves with the son, seems strange if read literally. Ovid's explanation of the Roman calendar sheds "light" on this scene: the sun, the light, is now in Aquarius, which the son symbolizes. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius; let the sun shine in!
Interesting side-note: January 17 is when Cancer has reached its nadir and begins to mount its ascent (Columella) just as Capricorn has reached its zenith and begins to make its descent (Ovid). McCarthy's birthsign is Cancer, which McCarthy deems significant (his self-portrait contains what could be the Cancer glyph over his eyes and face), and so January 17 could be seen as personally significant to McCarthy, as this meaning of "117" marks for him an upturn after hitting a trough, a renaissance after a decline, a rebirth from a death.
Here are some fun trivia on "117":
(1) McCarthy's birthday is July 20, 1933, and Blood Meridian's the kid's birthday is about a century earlier, November 13, 1833. However, neglecting the year, the number of days from July 20 to November 13, inclusive of these days, is 117.
(2) Pagecount, in general, I don't give much significance to, simply because it is not a number the writer could control, as he could with, say, chaptercount and scenecount. But this set of numbers does seem interesting: In the repagination of Blood Meridian, the pagecount is 351=3x117, the three also being a significant number across McCarthy's works.
(3) And then there is the Kabbalah:
The Hebrew word "aleph-vau-pe-lamed" means "to be darkened", "to black out".
aleph=1; vau=6; pe=80; lamed=30.
The Hebrew word "zayin-yod-qoph" means "meteor", "spark", "flicker", "ghost".
zayin=7; yod=10; qoph=100.
In The Road, 1:17am occurs shortly after the light streaks across the sky ... perhaps a meteor (=117), as the world is permanently darkened (=117), and shortly before the birth of the son who carries the spark (=117).
For now, this discussion has not included what could be an implicit "117" in Blood Meridian, which would involve a bigger conspiracy theory, to be discussed in future posts...