Alas, Babylon: Essay

Composed by: (\/)ATT ©( )LL][ /V S

English II Honors

Mrs. Cottingham

The possibility of thermonuclear war is a relatively new concept. The author of this novel, Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank, was a journalist during World War II. After the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus bringing an end to the War, Pat decided to explore the possibility of an all out nuclear exchange with our most powerful enemy. In this chiller, written in 1959, he conceives what it could be like if that were to ever take place. Problems to the affect of, an end to all industrialization, the process of evolution and natural selection, the attitudes and personalities of people changing to make a more hardened society, among others are all topics of this work.

Could you imagine the Paradigm Shift that would take place in the world, industry-wise, if a nuclear war broke out? The effects would be disastrous, if not incomprehensible. Stop a minute and think about that. As seen in Alas, Babylon, as soon as the war began no more shipments of ANYTHING would arrive. This includes, gasoline, all food, medicine, coal for the power plants, or anything else that is needed to sustain a highly industrialized nation. If the cities were still existing then things might halfway get back to normal, (unless the country is engulfed in a crime wave because of the crises). But even if the raw goods from around the world, wheat, oil, iron, (just to name a few), were shipped in they would have no where to be processed. Depending on the level of destruction wreacked, the enemy would be guaranteed to destroy not just the military, but the government, and anything else that classifies us as a first notch nation in commerce and industry. We would come to a halt as soon as the power plants ran out of fuel and the gasoline pumps ran dry. Being thrust back into the 19th century, is the only comparison, except that we would have our knowledge, just not our technology. This is when nature would begin to have control again.

But, the good thing about the fact is that there is no government to govern the people. Therefore all of the protection over us would be nonexistent. We would have to defend ourselves against all possibilities, looters, natural disasters, civil discrepancies, or anything else that might arise. Consequently the process of Darwin's evolution and natural selection will be implemented. Man will still subsist but will not have as great as an effect on the physical environment as previously once had. For those who are not familiar with these processes of evolution and natural selection, it involves the theory that when in nature a family line of, lets say, Jim Hickey's bees that have a genetic disorder, and is inhibited by this disorder cannot survive. Thus, making it so only the strong survive and producing the ecosystem healthier as a whole. That would be natural selection. Contrary to popular belief, evolution isn't directly related with the beginning of life. Evolution, is the course by which a group of animals, for example, horses are starving for food. After all of the food has been eaten on ground level the only leaves left are up in the trees. The horses that have long necks can reach the food. Those who do not, cannot. So they die out, leaving only the horses that can obtain the food, alive. All others starve until death. Now that the only horses that dwell are the long necked ones. When they reproduce the second generation, their necks are slightly longer. This continues millions of years until we get a creature called the giraffe. The same is true with the fish in the tank, and the armadillos having no natural enemy. "Nature will find a way"* But, humans are diffrent. We are social creatures.

The third and final division is about the people of the world "...some people will melt like fat in a frying pan while others harden." In times of crises, or anarchy the true hearts of men do not change. They just become more extreme to the side of which they are on. For instance, the highwaymen, before The Day were probably always finding a way around the system, or cheating or doing whatever it was nessascerry to achieve their goals. They may not have been doing anything in particular that was bad but their hearts were shifted to that side. When the war took place, it pushed a lot of people over the edge, dramatically. If your heart was bad then it was just increased 10-fold. If you had a good heart, and strong morals, and good leadership skills, that would be amplified too, and you were going to "harden" and come out all right. If you had a good heart, but no leadership skills or you were ignorant of how to survive without modern convinces, you probably would just become a part of the "melting" category. The people staying in Riverside Inn would fall into there. Randy, and the River Side Road Gang would fall into the "hardening" classification and the Highwaymen would yield into the "heart is truly bad" division. As you can see this is a con of a disaster.

The effect of thermonuclear war on society is impossible to guess unless, we actually experience it, but even then it would probably be too significant to measure. Industry and the commercial world would suffer, nature would definitely lose a lot and gain some, while the good people would become more kind of and sharing in their ways, and the bad people, criminals. A not so well known quote from the developer of the equation that makes all of this possibilr, Albert Einstein, asserts "I don't know what weapons will be used in World War III, but, World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.."

*Quote form Universal Pictures Jurassic Park.

Related Essays on Literature