Overarching themes of the novel are cruelty, isolation, and moral degradation of human beings and the role of fate and society in it. One of the novel's main themes is sexual deviancy, specifically necrophilia. Ballard, who the novel makes clear is unable to have conventional romantic relationships, eventually descends into necrophilia after finding a dead couple in a car. After this "first love" is destroyed in a fire, he becomes proactive, creating dead female partners by shooting them with his rifle. Ballard also makes no distinction between women and girls, at one point killing a girl whom he had previously asked "How come you wear them britches? You cain't see nothin". Another theme examined by the novel is survival. As the real world pushes Ballard further and further into a corner, he degenerates into an almost barbaric survivalist, living rough, stealing food, and deviously escaping after he is captured by a group of vengeful men.
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