Alas, Babylon

Alas, Babylon Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11


Randy and Lib get married on Easter Sunday in the parlor of the Bragg house, shortly after the sunrise Easter church service in town. Lib's father gives her away, and Dan Gunn is best man while Helen is the maid of honor. Preacher Henry performs the ceremony.

They had received bad news at the service that morning; the highwaymen had raided the home of Jim Hickey, the beekeeper who had given Randy honey, and killed him and his wife. Randy is outraged, but they decide that it is especially important that they stick to their plan. They would drive the grocery truck for some miles in order to attract the highwaymen. The plan is for Randy to drive, with the Admiral, Bill McGovern, and Malachai concealed with guns in the body of the truck. There are holes cut into the sides of the truck to poke the gun barrels through.

Malachai, however, suggests a change in the plan at the last minute. He insists that he drive, because he says the highwaymen are more likely to attack a black face than a white face, and Randy's military uniform would look suspicious. Reluctantly Randy agrees.

The drive is fairly uneventful down River Road and up towards Pasco Creek. They stop for ten minutes to rest and drink the thermos of coffee that Lib had packed them. As they turn down a road leading away from Fort Repose, though, another car begins to follow them. The car continues to follow until it herds them into a blocked off cul-de-sac, and as they get closer they see that it is their stolen Model A blocking the other end, with highwaymen standing around it.

They manage to kill two of the highwaymen and take the other captive, but in the heat of the battle Malachai is shot and badly wounded. They interrogate the captive, who says one of the women with them had already run off with Dan's bag. They take the captive back with them, along with Malachai, but by the time they return, Malachai has died.

As a wedding present, Dan moves into Bill's room so that Randy and Lib, the new married couple, can have an entire apartment in the house to themselves. The following day, the highwayman that they took captive is hanged in town.


This chapter begins with an important milestone in the characterization of both Randy and Lib: their marriage. This ceremony affirms the development of their relationship; at the beginning of the novel Randy was known for his fleeting relationships with a number of women, including Rita Hernandez, and he did not appear to feel any differently about Lib.

Tragedy, however, has brought them closer together; their relationship has grown more serious as they have faced countless challenges together. At this moment, both Randy and Lib are ready to commit to each other in the way that neither of them were ready for in the beginning.

But the bigger focus in this chapter is the showdown between the River Road men and the highwaymen. Just as Fort Repose has regressed back in time in all other aspects of daily life, its system of justice, crime, and punishment has regressed, too. Gone are the days when an arrest would be attempted and a criminal would be given a fair hearing and trial, replaced by an era in which the revenge principle rules.

The proper term for this is frontier justice, which stems from a lack of law and order in a society. Like during the previous century throughout expansion across the American western frontier, there are no rules when dealing with lawbreakers like highwaymen. Just after the nuclear attacks, Randy had declared that he would not lose his moral code; however, it is clear that that does not apply when someone threatens his loved ones. After their victory, their captive is given a public hanging to warn others not to take the same route. An eye for an eye is the law of the land.

But victory and safety is not without sacrifice. The River Road residents have sacrificed much in the wake of The Day, but Malachai's death is the biggest sacrifice of all. Malachai was the first person Randy trusted with the knowledge of the impending bombs, precisely because he knew Malachai would rise to the occasion. Malachai died doing exactly that—offering to put himself more directly in the line of danger in order to ensure their success. Malachai stayed true to Randy's expectations of him to the very end, which speaks volumes for his character.