Alas, Babylon Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Study Guide

Original title:
Alas, Babylon

“Alas, Babylon” was written by Pat Frank in 1959 and it became a bestseller almost immediately. As Tolkien for the fantasy genre or Orwell for the future dystopian books, Pat Frank became a “grandfather” of all postapocalyptic fiction. “Alas, Babylon” shows us the bleak future after the nuclear war that devastated the world. The small town in the middle of nowhere named Fort Reposte struggles to survive in this horrifying new world, where the values of old age mean nothing. The sheer horror of the destruction caused by humanity is only the shadow of the real horror - the horror of the changes in the souls and minds of humanity brought to the brink of survival.

But the story doesn’t start that grim. The town of Fort Reposte is shown quiet but prosperous Everytown, Florida, and our protagonist, the young man named Randy Bragg lives a careless, though yet senseless life, with countless possibilities before him. Everything changes when he receives a telegram from his brother serving in the military. The telegram ends with the words from the Bible: “Alas, Babylon” that are the secret code established between the brothers. These words mean that the ultimate disaster is coming…

The chaos that engulfs the whole country is depicted extremely graphically. There are no heroes and no villains: everyone is just trying to survive the dangers of war. Lots of horrible things that happen are just the result of overall mess and disorder, not the malevolent intentions of some enemies.

For the modern readers, who are already used to the luxurious choice of the post-apocalyptic novels, “Alas, Babylon” can seem somewhat naive and simple, but still, we have to remember that it was the first. The book is definitely worth reading, not only because of the setting that takes place during and after the nuclear war, but because of the vividly portrayed psychological shifts in the minds of the people in the direst of situation. We see how the morals and relationship try to withstand the primal desire to survive at any cost - and until the very end we don’t know is there still any hope for Fort Reposte.

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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...

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