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Alas Babylon by Pat Frank. Notes on the Novel. Author’s Purpose:.

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alas babylon by pat frank

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank

Notes on the Novel

author s purpose
Author’s Purpose:

Rarely do writers have just one purpose in writing a novel, but Alas Babylon’s purpose seems to be pretty clear cut. The author wanted to strike fear in the hearts of his fellow Americans about the looming danger of a nuclear strike.

Though many authors, entertainers and authorities would continue this theme during the cold war, Frank was one of the first to write about what it would be like if an H bomb struck America. In doing so he also managed to capture the American spirit, as well as some of the negative aspects of American life in the 1950s.

After WWWII ended, Americans were settling into one of the most prosperous and comfortable times we had experienced as a country. But amid this complacency, there was a sense of the danger that had ended the war. The H bombs that struck Nagasaki and Hiroshima still existed, and the world’s tensions had not ceased with the war.

russian threat
Russian Threat
  • Before the war America had not really had an enemy by which to define itself. After the war the threat of the spread of communism provided a true enemy to freedom. Whereas during the war Americans did not perceive an attack on American soil as a possibility, after the war Americans began to realize how modern warfare made just such an attack extremely possible. One needed only a plane and a bomb.
Many American speculated on what just such an attack might mean, and Frank did just that before writing this book. A friend who was a “practical man” asked him “What do you think would happen if the Ruskies hit us when we weren’t looking– you know, like Pearl Harbor?”
  • Frank replied, “Oh, I think they’d kill fifty or sixty million Americans– but I think we’d win the war.”
His friend replied, “Wow! Fifty or sixty million dead! What a depression that would make!” Causing Frank to think, “I doubt if he realized the exact nature and extent of the depression–”
  • This book explores how such an attack would change the country literally, physically, and mentally.
duck and cover drills
Duck and Cover Drills
  • In the early 1950s details began to emerge from Japan about both the immediate and long term consequences of the hydrogen bomb.
but it isn t all scary
But it isn’t all scary:
  • This novel’s purpose might be to scare Americans into being more ready for an attack, but it also explores how society operates. Interestingly, once the bomb hits, society is turned on its head. Things and people who were once esteemed now seem worthless, and those who were looked down upon triumph.
In some ways this novel also paves the way for those that will come after it which tout civil rights and the American belief that money is not what makes us have value, it is our abilities and willingness to treat others as human beings.
  • There area also some interesting glimpses into the America we think of as so proper in the 1950s. For example, the drug addicts who run amuck indicate that not all is perfect in 1950s America.