Alas, Babylon is one of many post-catastrophe novels written in the era of the Cold War. Like the more highly regarded A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) by Walter M. Miller, Jr., it assumes a return to barbarism after such a catastrophe. Whereas Miller’s novel covers some eighteen hundred years after the holocaust, Pat Frank’s novel concerns only the first year and shows the process by which such decadence comes to be. Frank’s novel is more optimistic than Miller’s, ending with the re-establishment of schools, an increase in reading, the return to a more purposeful existence, and the hope that the best people will survive and retain their civility.
One of Frank’s last novels, written at a time when America feared and prepared for atomic war, Alas, Babylon can be called science fiction only in the sense that the holocaust does occur. At the beginning, Frank makes the setting seem familiar. With careful attention to place, he creates a small river town in Florida, modeled after Mandarin, where his mother lived. As the town becomes strange to Randy, it becomes strange to the reader because of the lack of necessary services, the destruction of such symbols as money and ceremonies, and lack of communication with the outside world. For several months, the characters do not know whether the war is still going on or which side might have won, and they do not know if there is a national government in control. The uncertainty of...
(The entire section is 447 words.)
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?Occasionally people do not think the unexpected could happen. Life can change people in many ways. These changes can be small or big. In the novel, Alas Babylon, Pat Frank shows how people can change at the same time their society changes. He demonstrates how change affects people using the characters, Randy Bragg, Helen Bragg, and Elizabeth McGovern. In the beginning of the novel, Randy is introduces as a guy with no responsibilities. He does not work and lives alone with his dog Graf. Randy would sit around and drink bourbon every morning because he did not have to worry about getting important tasks done (8).
After “the day”, Randy had to be smarter and find ways for himself and everyone around him to survive. When the town’s water became contaminated, he connected water pipes to all the neighbors’ homes (151). He also noticed his neighbor’s live stocks and crops were missing day by day. No one knew whether they were getting stolen or eaten by wild animals. This problem made Randy start a night guard watch. He set up a schedule for Ben Franklin, Bill McGovern, and himself to switch in between nights so everyone would know their post turns (185).
Lastly, Randy eventually took charge and became a leader in Fort Repose. He wrote on the town bulletin board, “I am assuming command of Fort Repose and its environs” (256). These examples show how Randy had to step up to the plate from having little to great responsibility to help his town. Helen is Randy’s sister-in-law, a military wife, with two children. Helen and her husband, Mark Bragg, had to move from Omaha to Fort Repose because that is where the Russians were going to throw their first nuclear bombing. Although Helen’s life, along with her children, was in danger, she refuses to leave.
She responds to Mark saying, “That still doesn’t matter, my place is here with you” (65). Helen only knew what it was like to be a house wife, but after “the day”, she learns a lot of new things. She became the barber of everyone in the house (221). In addition to cutting hair, Helen also studies hypnotism with Dan, the town’s doctor. She helped him with hypnosis because there was very little to no medicines available to numb his patients without amnesia (287). By these examples, Helen realizes she is more capable of doing other things rather than just cooking and cleaning.
As the book progresses, we meet Randy’s girlfriend, Elizabeth (Lib) McGovern. Lib was an understanding person. She did not get upset when Helen attempted to kiss Randy while she gave him his weekly haircuts because she had visions he was Mark. Lib says,” It’s a form of fantasy. ‘She said, “the sort of transference you find in dreams—the substitution in dreams of a person for another. Helen allowed herself to slip into a dream. I think she is a completely chaste person” (223). After “the day”, Lib matured into a dependent woman gaining wisdom and helping Randy make important decisions.
One major decision was when she shared her ideas on setting up a plan for Randy when he wanted to go out and capture the highway men (255). With these examples, Lib demonstrates she is capable of being a helpful leader for Randy and also for Fort Repose. In conclusion, Pat Frank gave us many life situations that the characters from the novel, Alas Babylon, had to face after a nuclear bombing attack. Life can change quickly. It is important to stay strong because people may not realize how much they are able to handle with things they never had thrown at them.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Alas babylon essay
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