Study Guide

Lib McGovern in Alas, Babylon

By Pat Frank

Lib McGovern

At first, it can be easy to underestimate Lib McGovern. She seems like some rich, spoiled Yankee who lounges around her retired parents' McMansion all day. But, as she proves over the course of Alas, Babylon, however, Lib is an incredibly tough and strong-willed woman in her own right.

The Ex-Girlfriend Blues

We're first introduced to Lib as one of Randy's many former baes. That alone makes us skeptical: what kind of girl goes for a guy who takes his cereal with whiskey?

Her family life paints an equally unflattering picture. Her father, Bill, is a rich, racist retiree. Her mother, Lavinia, seems to care about nothing besides the size of their riverside abode. Given all this, it's no wonder why Lib doesn't seem like the coolest gal off the bat.

Like others, Lib is hardened in the aftermath of The Day. One of her big growing moments comes after the death of her mother, Lavinia, whose diabetes can't be controlled after they run out of insulin. While this is devastating to Lib, it also increases her estimation in Randy's eyes. Here's him watching her dig her mom's grave:

As she dug, her stature increased in Randy's eyes. She was like a fine sword, slender and flexible, but steel: a woman of courage. (7.253)

Kind of creepy to compare a woman to a sword, sure, but it's Randy's sort of misogynistic way of saying that Lib is stronger than he thought. More on that later, though.

Married by the Bomb

Prior to The Day, Lib had big plans for her and Randy's relationship. We'll let her tell it:

"I think you ought to go to New York or Chicago or San Francisco or any city with character and vitality. You should go to work. [...] As soon as you get a job, I'll follow you. If you want, we can live together for a while. If it's good, we can get married." (3.88-90)

Of course, that plan's out the window now. There's not much vitality left in those big cities anymore, unless having your skin melted off by radiation sounds like a good time.

Interestingly, however, The Day brings Lib and Randy closer together. In fact, it's hard to imagine him respecting her as much had he not seen this side of her. However we rationalize it, the two of them quickly become a couple, and after a few months, they marry. It's pretty much Lib's dream come true, only with a post-apocalyptic wasteland instead of a big city.

The Feminist View

There's just one big caveat with Lib's character: Alas, Babylon's depiction of gender roles.

It's undeniable that the novel depicts Randy as the dominant force in their relationship, with him referring to her at one point as a "beautiful possession" (10.158). Ew. Gross. While Randy doesn't do anything expressly misogynistic in his actions, it's hard to deny this domineering aspect to their relationship.

Should we be offended? Or should we chalk it up to the social mores of 1950s America and call it a day? It's your call. Either way you land on this aspect of Lib's depiction, however, she's still one of Alas, Babylon's most interesting characters, and one worth studying in her own right.

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