Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Rules and Order

By Pat Frank

Rules and Order

Chapter 5

With the use of the hydrogen bomb, the Christian era was dead, and with it must die the tradition of the Good Samaritan. (5.69)

Although Randy as his pals manage to stay true to their moral code, they all know that the only law now is survival. That might sound like the logline for a particularly cheesy late-night action flick, but it's also pretty true in this instance.

"I'm very sorry, Mr. Quisenberry," she said, "but I can't send this. Jacksonville doesn't seem to be there any more." (5.174)

This exchange is too great not to include. Edgar Quisenberry dropped by the Washington Mutual expecting advice about how to handle a short-term downturn, but what he got was the biggest mind-blow of all-time. Priceless.

There was a phrase he had heard a number of times, "the end of civilization as we know it." Now he knew what the phrase meant. It meant the end of money. (5.228)

For a banker like Mr. Quisenberry, money makes the world go 'round. And it did. Emphasis on did. In this new world, men like Edgar no longer enjoy their vaunted status as community leaders and the many luxuries afforded by it.

Chapter 6

Randy couldn't believe it. Mrs. Vanbruuker-Brown was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the President's Cabinet, or had been until this day. (6.11)

In other words, nearly a dozen members of the presidential cabinet, including the President himself, all died during the initial attacks. Yikes. Prior to this broadcast, Randy wondered about the state of the United States government outside of Florida. Well, now he knows—it hardly exists.

Chapter 7
Randy Bragg

Randy sensed that Pete, perhaps because he had never had much of it, still coveted money. He said, "I'll give you a price for salt right now." (7.91)

Some people still cling to the old order even after it's obvious it's gone for good. Case in point right here. Pete Hernandez trades a big old bag of salt—a super-hot commodity in the post-apocalypse—for what is effectively green paper with old dudes' faces on them. At least it makes for good TP.

"They have deluded themselves into believing that lights, water, maids, telephone, dining-room service, and transportation will all come back in a day or two." (7.128)

The poor residents of Dan Gunn's inn—most of them tourists caught away from home when the bombs started falling—can't accept the end of society. This ends up being their downfall. If they could just accept the new order, they might be able to adapt and survive. For whatever reason, however, they can't.

Chapter 8

There were two drinking fountains in Marines Park, one marked "White Only," the other "Colored Only." Since neither worked, the signs were meaningless. (8.80)

This is one aspect of the old order we're not sorry to see go. Given that Alas, Babylon takes place in 1950s Florida, it depicts a fairly racist society. Now that said society has crumbled, however, those racial divisions are slowly receding. We're sure that there's still plenty of prejudice to go around, but it's not anything like it was before.

Chapter 9
Randy Bragg

"It was a wolf," Randy said. "It wasn't a dog any long. In times like these dogs can turn into wolves." (9.264)

Now that's a spicy metaphor, we say while kissing our fingers. Like the German Shepherd that keeps eating the Henrys' chickens at night, mankind can quickly go feral if society collapses. A scary thought indeed.

Chapter 12

The phrase "deterrent force" had been popular before The Day [...] Randy's company was certainly the most efficient force in Central Florida, and he intended to keep it so. (12.49)

Randy is such an effective local leader that Fort Repose becomes known throughout the state as a place where bad guys are not welcome. Impressive. With a little help from his friends, he's managed to create a truly cohesive local community, one that somehow seems to function better than it had before the bombs started flying.

Randy Bragg

"I am an officer in the Reserve. I have been legally designated to keep order when normal authority breaks down. [...] And the first thing I must do to keep order is execute the highwaymen." (10.69)

Left for dead by the federal government and besieged by bloodthirsty highwaymen, Randy takes matters into his own hands and singlehandedly bring Fort Repose back from the brink of chaos. Sure, we might feel squeamish that his first act as sorta-sheriff is to murder a gang of criminals, but can we really blame him given the situation? It's eat or be eaten and all that.

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