After reading ““Alas, Babylon”” and upon reviewing the history of 1940 to 1960, I believe that the author, Pat Frank, reveals some of his personal perceptions in life as presented in the novel. He expressed these in the story as depicted in the beliefs and actions of Randy Bragg, the main character in the novel. Survival, civil defense and Cold War are among the social issues addressed in the novel. “Alas, Babylon” is set during 1950s Cold War era in Fort Repose.
It incorporates the war relations between the Soviet Union and United States whereas the nuclear war is imminent. The conflict of the story started when Randy Bragg received a telegram from his brother, Mark Bragg, who happens to be an Air Intelligence colonel of the Strategic Air Alliance (SAC). The telegram, coded with ““Alas, Babylon”” (which means disaster or catastrophe), serves as a warning to Randy about the forthcoming nuclear war between United Sates and the Soviet Union (Frank, 1960, p.14).
Due to urgency of the situation, Randy is obliged to protect Mark’s wife named Helen with her daughter, Peyton and Ben Franklin. Being a reserved military, Randy took the initiative to lead his community, Fort Repose, in order to survive (Frank, 1960, p.114). When the war broke, disorders exist in the small community. Murder, killings and suicide are rampant. Drug addicts and highwaymen terrorized travelers and Fort Repose residences (Frank, 1959, pp. 80-84).
With these situations, Randy and his group were challenged to survive against the nuclear war and terrorist threat.
The primary and most notable social issue in the novel is survival – survival against the war and against the disorders in the community. When “The Day” occurred, the town of Fort Repose lost its supply of electricity, water, food, medical care, gasoline and even communications and law enforcement (Frank, 1960, p. 147).
The local officials and local policemen were not able to manage the situation instead they preferred to save themselves and their families. Being warned about the forthcoming disaster, Randy and his group were able to prepare. They gathered all the food supplies from Henry’s farm, water, fish and salt supplies from the nearby river, medicine from pharmacies and were able to improvise some tools needed to defend themselves.
Randy’s friend, Dr. Dan Gunn, provided medical treatment to those contaminated by nuclear radiation. The novel showed that through the united will of individuals in a community; survival from most tragic disaster is possible.
ince Randy and his group could not rely on their local officials and law enforcement group for the needed help, they were forced to defend themselves. On the day the war broke, drug addicts and highwaymen rampantly terrorized the residents of Fort Repose including the travelers from other towns who happened to pass the city (Frank, 1959, pp. 80-84). Murders, beatings and killings were among the terror incurred to poor victims. Dr. Gunn was also inflicted with such violence yet he was able to survive. Randy and his group searched for those terror groups and did all the possible things to stop local terrorism.
He even organized a local militia and served as their leader. He was the one giving the directions and orders needed for defense and survival. Since contamination of nuclear radiation was among the effects of the nuclear war, Randy ordered his fellow to report contamination and asked Dr. Gunn’s help to find solutions to address such problem (Frank, 1960, p. 215). Since, Fort Repose was isolated during the war, Randy and his group’s actions only proved that even local villagers could defend themselves without the aid of political, military and police officials; they only need to organize themselves and be united to fight against the threat of dangers.
“Alas, Babylon” is set during the Cold War. The theme of the novel depicted the setting that was prevalent in the occurrence of the conflict between Soviet Union and the United States (Frank, 1960, pp. 116). Military groups of the United States, where Mark Bragg serves as Intelligence staff, were alarmed after learning that the Soviet Union is producing nuclear weapons. Learning the possible consequences of such act, the United States prepared their military defense and warned the public about the probable effects of exposure to nuclear radiation.
Mark sent his wife and children to Randy’s care at Fort Repose. The possible effects of the nuclear war and the occurrence of Cold War between the United States were depicted in the novel to show the conflicts that the characters need to face in order to survive (Frank, 1960, pp.213-215). It highlighted the chronology of events and presented possible reactions of the public when a nuclear war occurs between the two great powers. The novel is in fact a treasure for every reader since it portrays the event that marked the historical relationship between Soviet Union and the United States. It also offers instructions on how to survive during the event of war such that when people could not rely to officials for their survival, they need to think and act for themselves and further unite with others to survive.
Pat, Frank. (1959). Alas, Babylon. Philadelphia. J.B. Lippincott Co.