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

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On Friday morning, they bury Porky Logan. Burying him, and his radioactive jewelry, took some doing. Randy had to force Bubba Offenhaus, the town’s undertaker, to donate his lead-lined casket and provide a space for it in the local cemetery. Considering the weight of the casket and its contents, Randy needed a number of pallbearers to carry the casket. No one was interested in helping, so Randy had to get pallbearers at gunpoint.

Civil authority in the town has vanished. The mayor had barricaded himself in his house; the Chief of Police was dead; the remaining police had abandoned their duty to tend to their families; fire protection disappeared with the gasoline supplies, as had trash collection. To counter this breakdown of authority, Randy steps in and begins taking control.

Two-Tone Henry and Bill McGovern build a still to make corn whiskey from Preacher Henry’s coming corn crop. The resulting homebrew would be something they can use for trading, and the doctor can use it for anesthesia and sterilization.

Dan is late coming home from his rounds. Randy is listening to the radio and hears an announcement from the government: in areas where civil authority has broken down in the Contaminated Zones, military reserve officers and National Guard officers are authorized to take charge and provide public safety.

Helen has an emotional lapse and thinks that Randy is Mark. Lib walks in during her outburst and rescues Randy from a very awkward situation. Randy worries that this breakdown could bring down the entire house. Lib convinces him that it is only a temporary lapse and that it would be best not to mention it again. Lib tells Randy that Helen is used to having a man to care for, and she is making a special project of matching Helen with the doctor.

Alice has used the information she mined from the reference books in the library to create a salad of local greens. Although this is a great relief to Randy, he has no appetite, as the doctor still has not arrived home.

Ben and Caleb take their turn watching the Henry’s animals. Randy and Lib go to the admiral’s house to see if he has heard any news. While there, they hear some broadcasts indicating that the “Big Three” are sending supplies to Europe and North America, but there is no indication of who the “Big Three” are. The Big Three are still trying to open negotiations with the new Soviet leader, but with no success.

The porch bell summons Randy home. Upon arriving, he finds that Dan has been severely beaten; his medicine bag, the remaining drugs, and his medical instruments have been stolen. Worst of all, his glasses have been broken. Helen begins treating him as best as she is able. Randy remembers his “Iron Rations” - stocks of coffee, bouillon, and other items he stored away "The Day" before "The Day". Randy, in his new capacity of civil authority in Fort Repose, decides to catch and hang the highwaymen who assaulted and robbed the doctor.

Randy hears the shotgun that he gave Ben. He rushes out to see what happened and finds that the boys have shot a German Shepard - the dog that had been taking the chickens and the pig.


We are seeing the ongoing changes in Randy’s character from a playboy bachelor to a leader. The need to bury Porky Logan and his radioactive goods spurs Randy into armed action. The government announcement that gives him authority is a welcome relief for him - now he knows he was not acting illegally or rashly.

Civil authority and public safety have completely broken down. Women and children stay home, and the men only go out in public armed. The same situation is happening elsewhere in the Contaminated Zones, and the government, aware of the need for public safety, authorizes control by military officers; this is in addition to the martial law that had been declared earlier.

The attack on Dan Gunn is the last straw for Randy. There had been sporadic reports of highwaymen attacking outlying houses and travelers before, but now they have gone too far. In attacking the town’s only doctor, they must be stopped regardless of the cost. Not only must they be stopped, they must be stopped in such a way as to set a precedent and deter future violence. Randy hopes to capture the highwaymen alive and publicly hang them.

The news from the outside world is interesting. The reports indicate outbreaks of smallpox on the U.S. West Coast, starvation in France, and other depressing problems around the world. A new power bloc, the “Big Three,” sets out to relieve some of the problems and help the devastated nations, but the reports never indicate who these powers are. A new leader is in charge of the Soviet Union - like the Acting President of the U.S., a formerly junior-ranking government official - but the world leaders are not being successful in contacting him. He had set up a new Soviet government in Mongolia, but no radio broadcasts are being heard from there any longer.

We are also starting to see some changes in other character’s personalities. Helen is proving to be competent under pressure, although she still needs a man in her life. Alice is finding a new purpose in life, feeling more fulfilled than she has in years. Lib is changing from the pampered daughter of a rich industrialist into a resourceful woman. Even the children are changing from sheltered children to battle-hardened young people.

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