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

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Preacher Henry marries Randy and Lib in Randyís living room that Easter Sunday. Helen, the presumed widow of Col. Mark Bragg, gives Randy her own wedding ring. Randy legalizes the marriage with an order permitting any minister to perform weddings, all license requirements being waived. All marriages and births must be recorded with the town librarian to preserve a permanent record.

The wedding takes place after an ecumenical sunrise service that Easter morning. While the service is wonderful, the news they hear at Marines Park is not. The highwaymen murdered Jim Hickey, the beekeeper, and his wife. Their children walked to Fort Repose and are staying with a relative.

Randy and Lib are no sooner married than Randy sets to work on his plan to catch the highwaymen. He and Sam Hazzard map out a route that will take them through the majority of the area, exposing them to the most risk of attack, all the while using the least amount of gas. There being no more gasoline available, this is a one-shot attempt. Randyís plan is for him to drive the van around, with Sam Hazzard, Bill McGovern, and Malachi Henry in the back, armed and watching. Malachi, having a better understanding of racism and prejudice than Randy, says that the van will be a more tempting target if the highwaymen see a black man in work clothes at the wheel than if a white man in a military uniform is driving. Sam agrees with Malachi and Randy is forced to agree to let Malachi drive.

The men drive around the outskirts of the town, but see nothing of the highwaymen. Finally, Randy sees that they are being followed. The highwaymen herd the men onto a covered bridge whose far end has been blocked. At this point, Randy realizes that his original plan is useless. Malachi plays dumb and lures the men to the van. At the last moment, he jumps out on one of the men. Randy shoots one of the armed men and one of the men in the back of the van shoots another armed highwayman. The third highwayman, Leroy Settle, a local thug, is captured. Malachi is shot in the stomach in the attack.

They are unable to find the doctorís bag and medical instruments. They leave the dead highwaymen for the buzzards, but not before noticing that one of the dead men has honey on his hands.

The men take Malachi home for the doctor to treat, but Dan has no medical instruments. He starts collecting steak knives, hairpins, and other items that could be useful as makeshift instruments, but Malachi dies before the doctor can do anything to save him. Although the makeshift instruments may prove useful for future medical emergencies, there still remains the problem of the doctorís glasses.

The next day, the surviving highwayman is hanged in Marines Park. Randy orders that the body not be cut down until sunset. That day, he gets his first volunteers for his provisional company.


The mood of the novel becomes more tense in this chapter as the novel approaches its second climax. We also see further changes in the main characters as they become more hardened to the realities of life deep inside a Contaminated Zone in a post-war America. Although Randy never wanted command or authority, he is the only known reserve officer in Fort Repose and, according to the decree by the Acting President, he has no choice but to assume command. Other characters have had power, but they abused their power, abandoned it, or accepted it only for the honors rather than for the responsibility. Randy assumes command of the town and places its welfare and safety first.

Unfortunately, Malachiís observation proved all too true. A black man in the 1950s was a more tempting target than a white man. Malachiís plan worked, although it cost him his life. His death, however, sweeps away the last of Randyís indecision and ambivalence toward blacks.

Dr. Gunn notes that, although his medical instruments are gone, doctors in times past did just fine without modern instruments. Hairpins would make good artery clamps and steak knives would make good scalpels. Other household items such as tweezers, aquarium tubing, and nylon thread were suitable, if crude. In the new world order, he would have to make do. But, the one thing that could not be jerry-rigged was eyeglasses. This was a problem that defied a solution.

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