Alas Babylon Annotated Reading

From that statement on, the story develops into an exploration of the harsh realities of a nuclear attack on the United States. Beginning with the preparations made by the few who are aware of what is to come and the limited number of people they permit themselves to alert, Frank keeps the majority of the novel in one small town with only occasional information coming in from the outside world. Each day of the events of the novel are detailed for the first week, providing the possible developments for persons who survive nuclear assault because they do not live in areas that are directly targeted.

Direct targets are obliterated, while the small outlying areas have greater potential for survival, despite the loss of resources, such as electricity, only available from larger, more developed cities. Once the bombs have landed, each resource is cut off, one-by-one, either through possible radioactive side effects or the cutoff of supply. The citizens of Fort Repose must learn to ration the resources within the town, which creates a pre-industrial civilization complicated by the inability of the average American to utilize what is available in nature.

Frank explores the necessity of the survivors to think beyond the technologies to which they have become accustomed and begin to develop a whole new structure to their society. The best possible scenario for post-nuclear war is depicted, which gives insight to the reader if ever the need arises. Found that Frank developed characters to whom I could relate. For example Florence, who could only comprehend politics that existed in societies similar to her own. The statement: 'She did not understand, and could not become interested in, the politics of the Middle East' could have just as well described me, or any other average American (3).

While the fact that 'There had always been depression, or war, or threat of war' causes us to pay attention to some f what is going on in the world, there is still the tendency to believe that it will never happen to America (13). Once the detailed descriptions begin bringing home the possibility that safety is only an illusion, I found it easy to relate to Randy as 'he forced himself to imagine the unimaginable' (17). The minute changes that occur in how people would begin to think were dramatically pointed out when Randy finds the woman who wrecked her vehicle.

Having the events of a single day create a 'Yesterday [that] was a past period in history, with laws and rules archaic as ancient Romeos' is a very frightening concept. Although the lines: 'Today the rules had changed Today a man saved himself and his family and to hell with everyone else' seemed to only take modern behaviors a few steps further than they already are. I cannot help but think how devastating the changes would be today when we are already a self-centered society. 90) Frank describes the oblivion with which most of the victims of the attack perished and the challenge before the survivors: 'Very few actually saw an enemy aircraft or submarine, and missiles appeared only on the most sensitive radar screens. Most of those who died in North America saw nothing at all, since they died in bed, in a millisecond slipping from sleep into deeper darkness. So the struggle was not against a human enemy, or for victory. The struggle, for those who survived The Day, was to survive the next' (113-4).

His statement makes me wonder who received the better end of the stick. I realize that the people occupying America today very likely lack the skills required to survive after such a bombing. Even a power outage for more than a few hours causes a panic in today's society, so I can hardly imagine people having to go back to basics in their day-to-day lives. The longest I have ever had to go without power was a little ever a month, and even I had some difficulties with everything that needed to be done in order to maintain a sense of being civilized.

I found it very interesting that Frank allowed for so much growth in his characters that was beyond basic survival. Especially in the case of Alice, when he wrote: 'It was strange, she thought, peddling steadily, that it should require a holocaust to make her own life worth living' (177). Statements of that sort give a sense of hope even as the entire realization of the possibility of nuclear war overwhelms me. The adaptability of the human race is what I want to take with me from this novel, spite Frank wanting to open eyes to the fact that America is not impenetrable. Eke the idea that we, as a society can move beyond such topics as 'the weather as an inexhaustible subject for speculation' (184). When the characters of the novel began to restructure and bond together again, Randy 'wondered at this change in people and concluded that man was a naturally gregarious creature and they were all starved for companionship and the sight of new faces,' Frank seems to be pointing out that, while nuclear war can happen at any time, we have it within us to rise to the challenge (254).

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