Study Guide

Dan Gunn in Alas, Babylon

By Pat Frank

Dan Gunn

He might have a name better fitting a mustachioed action movie lead than a small-town doctor, but Dan Gunn is number one in our hearts. As you can imagine, he's pretty much the most important dude in town in after the nuclear apocalypse.

Diary of a Divorced Doctor

Although Dan is a good guy, he's stuck in a serious funk when we first meet him. He became a doctor with dreams of fighting rare and fearsome diseases, but after a nasty divorce leaves him with a hefty alimony payment:

Dan could imagine no combination of circumstances that would [...] set him free to fight the plagues. (3.110-111)

He doesn't want to spend his life making home visits to the rich and bored—he wants to make a difference.

And boy does he get to do that, just not in the way he expected. After The Day, Dan becomes Fort Repose's most important resident, spending his days (and most nights) shuttling back and forth between homes, fending off disaster after disaster.

And he does this at great risk to himself. Even after seeing a colleague murdered by fiending junkies, Dan refuses to carry a gun, saying that he's "'spent too many years learning how to save lives to start shooting people now'" (7.125).

Adapting to the Apocalypse

This ends up biting him in the butt in a major way. One day, while on his daily house call circuit, Dan makes the mistake of stopping for a woman whose car has broken down. In the words of the great Admiral Ackbar: it's a trap. Dan is assaulted and blinded in one eye by highwaymen, his car and medical bag stolen and, perhaps even worse, his glasses shattered.

Without them, he can't see a foot in front of him. He can't do anything.

The one silver lining to this dark cloud is Helen. Having already become his medical assistant, Helen pours all of her effort into healing and caring for Dan. And not just medically. These two post-apocalyptic babies fall in love. Although Helen resists her feeling at first because she still worries that Mark is alive, she eventually settles the issue for herself, and the novel ends with marriage a likely future for the couple.

Batting 1000

That makes Dan two-for-two. Prior to The Day, he struggled with both his status as a doctor and the fiery car wreck known as his romantic life. But afterwards? He's living his dream in both departments. Things will still be hard for Dan in the aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse, but we're willing to bet that it's a way more fulfilling life than it would have been otherwise.

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