Free Study Guide: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - Free BookNotes|
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6) “ ‘How much?’ Randy asked. Beck shook his head. ‘Nothing. That safe
is full up to the top with money. That’s all I’ve got left - money. Ain’t
that funny - nothing but money.’ “ (Mr. Beck (hardware store owner)
to Randy Bragg, Chapter 7, p. 156).
This is another indication of the attitude of the people towards money. Before
"The Day", Mr. Beck and all other shopkeepers could only dream
of having a safe full of money. Now, its only use will be toilet paper.
One important thing that the people will come to realize is that money
is, in reality, of no value. It has value only because the government
that issues it declares it to have a certain value (economists refer to
this as “fiat money”). What will be important in "The Day"s
to come is knowledge and skills - beekeeping, soap making, sewing skills,
knowledge of machinery, etc.
7) “The place we should have built up stockpiles was out in the country,
like Timucuan County. Stockpiles weren’t going to be of much use in the
cities because after "The Day" there weren’t going to be any
cities left. But where were the stockpiles? In the cities, of course.
It was easier.” (Dan Gunn to Randy Bragg, Chapter 7, p. 165).
Dr. Gunn is bemoaning the general shortsightedness of government leaders. Storing stockpiles of drugs and medical equipment in the cities was certainly easier and cheaper - both important qualities to politicians who fail to properly plan for a crisis. Unfortunately, this is what happened during the Cold War - radiation drugs, civil defense equipment, etc. was stored in the basements of large buildings in the cities - cities that would be incinerated if nuclear war actually came.
8) “Survival of the fittest... The strong survive. The frail die. The exotic
fish die because the aquarium isn’t heated. The common guppy lives. ...
That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be.” (Randy
Bragg to Lib
McGovern, Chapter 7, p. 175).
Classical Darwinism teaches that the fittest of the species survives while
the weaker die. Species that are so adapted to their environment that
they are “specialized” are the first to die off when the environment changes
and the special ecological niche they occupy disappears. In Florence’s
aquarium, the angel fish and other exotic fish requiring a special environment
are the first to die when there is no longer electricity to power the
heaters and air pumps. The common guppy and the drab catfish, however,
are not specialized and, so, survive. Randy is telling Lib that those
people who are specialized (like Edgar Quisenberry, the banker) will not
survive when the special niche they occupy is gone. The nonspecialists,
those who can adapt, have a chance to survive. Later, Randy tells Lib
that they need to be catfish.
9) “The defective bee, unable to cope with its environment, is rejected
by nature before birth. I think this will be true of man. ... Nature is
just, even merciful. By natural selection, nature will attempt to undo
what man has done.” (Dan Gunn to Randy Bragg, Chapter 9, p. 215).
It is often said that nature is cruel. Dan says that nature is not cruel;
instead, it favors the strong and healthy. Dan and Randy are concerned
about the possibility of a rash of stillbirths and children born with
birth defects after "The Day". Dan agrees that stillbirths will
not be unusual for a while, but things will return to normal. Nature is
not cruelly killing off the unborn, it is actually doing them a favor.
Man created the situation where birth defects and stillbirths would be
a problem; nature will try to clean up the mess and ensure the survival
of the species.
10) “We were born with Silver [sic] spoons in our mouths and electric dishwashers
to keep them sanitary and clean. We relaxed, didn’t we? What will happen
to us, Admiral?” (Lib McGovern to Sam Hazzard, Chapter 9, p. 230).
Sam and Lib have just heard reports on the shortwave of reports of smallpox
outbreaks in Europe and North America. Lib thinks this is medieval. She
then realizes that, with the advancement of science and technology, we
became lazy and relaxed our guard, and now the ancient evils are returning.
Now that the science and technology that kept the plagues and other old
curses at bay are gone, will they return? If so, what will we do about
it? If common childhood vaccines available today suddenly disappeared
permanently from the shelves, how will we as a nation respond? Too few
doctors have been trained to deal with diseases such as malaria, smallpox,
yellow fever, measles, and polio - all common in the U.S. relatively recently
- because those diseases do not exist in any numbers (if at all) in modern
America. What do we do if they return? What kind of future would we face?
11) “...When he saw the knives and the pliers and the hair clips steaming
[Dr. Gunn] realized they were not really so ridiculous. ...They had not
and probably could not have saved Malachi. They might save someone else.
A century ago the tools had been no better and the knowledge infinitely
less. Out of death, life; an immutable truth.” (Chapter 11, p. 277).
Dr. Gunn has just tried to save Malachi after the attack on the highwaymen,
but he has no equipment. Everyone is hunting for anything useful - steak
knives, hairpins, aquarium tubing, anything that could be of use. Dan
realizes that doctors in the last century had equipment that was no better
than his collection of odds and ends, yet they helped many sick and injured.
Although his equipment is no better than 19th century medical tools, he
has the advantage of medical knowledge that was unknown then. With that
knowledge, he could make do. Malachi’s death would not be in vain - although
the equipment was gone, Dan was assembling a collection of items that,
with his knowledge and skill, may yet save a life another day.
12) “ ‘Some of our scientists think it will take a thousand years to restore
a saturated [Contaminated Zone], like Florida or New Jersey, to anything
close to normal.’ “ (Paul Hart to Randy Bragg, Chapter 13, p. 309).
Actually, it would probably take longer than a thousand years to fully restore
a contaminated zone. It does, however, make an interesting backdrop to
the last sentence in the novel: “... Randy turned away to face the thousand-year
night.” (Chapter 13, p. 312).
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