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Free Study Guide: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - Free BookNotes

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ALAS, BABYLON: LITERARY CRITICISM / FREE NOTES

CHAPTER 7

Summary

The loss of electricity has major ramifications. Randy had not thought about what used electricity, but he is learning now. Temporary losses of power happened from time to time, especially during storms, but the power always came back. This time, however, it would not be coming back.

On Monday afternoon, Ben announces that they were running out of water. Having filled the bathtubs, buckets, and pots with water earlier, Randy cannot understand why the water is running low. Ben says that Peyton flushes the toilet each time she uses it. Randy decides that the toilets will be flushed only twice each day; then, when the water does run out, they would dig latrines.

Suddenly he remembers the artesian well system. Randy and Ben go to the Henry’s to begin the work required to hook up the Bragg house to the well. After a full day’s hard work, water smelling of rotten eggs spurts out of the faucet. To Randy, this is wonderful.

With the electricity out, Helen discovers that all the fresh meat Randy bought and froze on Saturday has thawed. Had he thought about the loss of electricity on Saturday, he would have bought cases of canned meat instead of fresh meat. Helen decides to salvage the meat by salting it or canning it, but she has neither enough salt nor any Mason jars. A trip to town to get these things would require a half-gallon of gas, but it is a necessary use of the fuel. They then decide to have a steak party rather than let all the meat she cannot salvage go to waste.

In town, Randy finds that the supermarket has been ransacked. As he leaves, he finds the store owner hiding, taking what items he can save and use in his own house. He gives Randy some salt, but at $10 per pound. Afterward, he goes to the hardware store - the storeowner still has some Mason jars. He gives them to Randy at no cost - after all, what good is money now?


Randy goes to Dr. Gunn’s office, but finds that it had been ransacked. The local police chief and his assistant were killed in the raid, and Dr. Gunn’s partner was fatally wounded. The clinic, raided by drug addicts looking for a fix, is damaged beyond repair and it is abandoned. Randy tells the doctor that he will be moving into Randy’s house.

Randy takes the doctor to the hotel to pack his belongings. Once there, he finds that the residents still believe that the lights and water will soon be working again but, meanwhile, the place is a squalid mess and is ripe for an epidemic. Once an epidemic starts, the doctor will be powerless to do anything about it. Since the residents will not listen to him, he is unable to prevent an epidemic.

That night, “the night of the steak orgy,” they hear a broadcast from Civil Defense headquarters. The government has conducted a preliminary survey of the country and declared certain areas Contaminated Zones. No one is allowed in or out of these zones without going through checkpoints. The broadcaster then lists the zones - the entire state of Florida is a Contaminated Zone. Also listed is Omaha and, with it, any hope of Mark’s survival. Randy then realizes that Fort Repose was a clear island in the midst of a sea of radioactive devastation.

On Thursday, the men extend the artesian well system to the houses of Florence Wechek and Sam Hazzard. On Saturday night, the hotel burns. Without water, there is no way to put out the fire. On Tuesday, the ninth day after "The Day", Lib’s mother dies. All the diabetics in Fort Repose die about the same time as their insulin goes bad due to a lack of refrigeration.

After Randy and Lib’s father bury Lavinia, Randy moves them into his house. Bill McGovern thinks he has nothing to contribute but, after a dressing-down by Randy, he sees that he has experience working with tools. He and Malachi Henry will be the local mechanics.

Notes

Saturday morning, after cashing Mark’s check, Randy makes a critical error when he stocks up on fresh steaks rather than canned goods. Having taken Mark’s warning seriously, he should have realized that electricity would not last long, especially if Orlando was hit. He makes another critical mistake when he fails to consider running water, although luck was with him on this matter.

The destruction of the clinic is not surprising. Drug addicts no longer had a source of supply once the war begins and their first target for drugs would be pharmacies and clinics. Once that supply is exhausted, however, their own personal torture would begin. Dan Gunn is not worried about punishing the addicts - “After this big jag,” he says, “they’re bound to have withdrawal sickness. They will die, horribly I hope.”

The list of Contaminated Zones reads like a “Who’s Who” of major industrial, military, and population centers. Given the geography of Florida and the large number of military and industrial centers in the state, it is not surprising that the entire state was placed off-limits.

The filth and squalor of the hotel are also not surprising. Dr. Gunn had predicted an epidemic there, but the fire arrived before the disease. The few survivors were placed in the Fort Repose school. Within a few days, it was worse than the hotel.

Lib McGovern dies nine days after "The Day". Being a diabetic, she required insulin, and insulin requires refrigeration. Once the power goes out, the insulin she and other diabetics have on hand will begin to deteriorate. Without insulin, she slips into a diabetic coma and dies two days later. One of the prescriptions that Dr. Gunn gave Randy on Saturday was for a new drug, Oranise, which did not require refrigeration. It would have to be ordered from a drug house in Orlando since it was too new for the local pharmacy to stock. Unfortunately, before Dan can get it ordered and delivered, there was no longer an Orlando.


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