Free Study Guide: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - Free BookNotes|
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ALAS, BABYLON: LITERATURE SUMMARY / FREE BOOKNOTES
Dan and Randy go to town, Dan to check on three patients suffering from radiation sickness. Dan cannot figure out why there are only three cases instead of many more. Randy goes with Dan as he checks on them - all are dying. He drops out long enough to try trading a bottle of scotch for some coffee. A local beekeeper gives Randy some honeycombs for the children - his religious principles prevent him from trading in liquor - and mentions that something is happening to his bees. He wonders if it could be radiation.
Randy rejoins Dan on his rounds in Pistolville. One of Dan’s patients is Pete Hernandez, the brother of Randy’s previous love interest. She has been trading for silverware, television sets, artwork, and jewelry, all items once valuable but now useless. She thinks that, once the war is over and things return to normal, she will be rich. Rita shows Randy her new diamond and emerald ring, taking it off so he can see it better. When she does, he sees a dark band on her finger where the ring was. Randy and Dan realize that the ring is radioactive, and all the jewelry she and Pete are wearing are slowly killing them.
After leaving Rita’s house, they go to see Porky Logan, also suffering
from radiation poisoning. When they arrive, they find that he is already
dead. Throughout his house, they find jewelry, all radioactive. Bill Cullen,
the third victim, is also terminally ill.
We are starting to see the change in Randy’s personality - he is starting to harden, just as Dr. Gunn predicted earlier. Otherwise, life is starting to settle into a routine and all the survivors are finding new purposes in life.
The theft of the chickens and pigs is a grave danger. Not only do Randy and his neighbors depend on them for food, but the chicks and piglets are food for the future. The loss of them is the loss of their future food supply.
The three cases of radiation sickness do not pose a direct danger to Fort Repose or to Pistolville. Radiation sickness, after all, is not contagious. However, greed and misplaced values bring radioactive items into the community, threatening the people’s health. The fallout did not affect Fort Repose and no nuclear strikes occurred nearby. But, greed and misplaced values, along with the inability to accept reality, bring the danger to the town. At this point, the real danger is not the effects of war, but human nature.
Alice Cooksey is finding her true calling. Before "The Day", she
was a burned-out librarian, watching her budget shrink almost as fast
as the number of her patrons. She had been losing readers to the new entertainments
of movies and television. Now, however, with those distractions gone,
people are once again returning to the library. By reading, the children
get an education even if they do not realize it. By researching the reference
materials in the library, Alice may find ways to improve their lives and
their food supply. For the first time in years, Alice has a mission -
unfortunately it took a disaster for her to find it.
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