Alas, Babylon

Alas, Babylon Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9 and 10


They bury one of the radiation victims, Porky Logan, in a lead-lined coffin with all of the contaminated jewelry. They need strong men to carry the coffin, but none of the men at the trading post volunteer until Randy points a gun at them and demands that they do. Back on River Road, Two-Tone and Bill McGovern are talking about making a still to use to distill whiskey once the corn and sugar cane crop are grown, but they need to take the gas lines out of Randy's car to do so.

While listening to the radio with Dan one night, Randy hears Mrs. Vanbruuker-Brown ask that all Reserve officers and National Guard officers not in contact with their commanders or headquarters to take action to preserve public safety in the Contaminated Zones. Randy was in the Reserve, so this includes him—he now has been given authority he did not have before. He tries to tell Helen this while she gives him a haircut, but she is more concerned with his uncanny resemblance to Mark; she becomes delusional and insists that he is Mark, trying to kiss him, stuck in a frenzy of emotion.

Once he gets away, he finds Lib, who saw and heard, and she explains what happened. She calls it a fantastic hallucination that came as a result of her conflict between intense loyalty to her husband and need for a man to receive her love and affection. Lib reminds him that she had once wanted to be a psychologist.

At dinner, there is a surprise; Alice, Lib, Helen, and Florence have made a salad of edible plants and mushrooms, the first since The Day. Later they notice that Dan has not returned home yet; worried, Randy and Lib to look for him at the Admiral's house. They listen to gabled radio broadcasts and discuss the war; the Admiral compares it to the fall of the Roman Empire. On the way back, Randy and Lib have a discussion about their love for one another, but lament that it is such a bad time for love—an alarm bell from the house interrupts them, though, that means something is terribly wrong.

Dan had been ambushed and beaten up by highwaymen on his way home. They took his medical bag and the car. Randy is outraged and threatens to kill them. That night, Ben Franklin and Missouri's son Caleb, on watch over the pigs and chickens, shoot the giant, escaped domestic German shepherd dog that had been stealing the animals. Ben is at first ashamed that he killed a dog, but Randy reminds him that in this world, it has become a wolf.

When he is feeling better the next day, Dan tells the tale. He had been making a house call for a woman with two children suffering from typhoid fever. On the way home, he spotted a woman in the road, and stopped; she turned out to be a decoy for highwaymen, who took everything, beat him, and drove away with the car. Defeated, he had crawled home. Worse than anything else, he had lost his glasses, which means he can no longer do his medical work with poor vision.

Randy and Lib go back to the Admiral's to brainstorm ways to deal with the highwaymen. Lib comes up with the idea to go to Rita Hernandez, who has gas and a supermarket delivery truck. It would entice the highwaymen, who would then come close enough for Randy and the other men to kill them. Rita agrees to his plan, and they stage a scene that makes it look like he stole the truck from her, and he takes it back to River Road.

He and Lib have a talk that night, and he admits that he wishes they were married. Lib reminds him that under martial law, now that he is in charge of the town and its safety, he can make the rules and give them a marriage license. They decide that they will get married on Easter.


Up until this point, Randy has mainly served as the leader of his own home and their small, self-sufficient section of River Road residents. With Mrs. Vanbruuker-Brown's new declaration allowing Reserve officers to take responsibility for public safety in the contaminated zones, Randy has been given the opportunity to step up as a leading figure for all of Fort Repose. Had he still been the man he was before The Day, he likely would not have been capable of this. But Randy has evolved so much from the beginning of the novel, rising to the new purpose outlined for him by the nuclear attacks.

At the same time, though, Randy's new role is certainly not the one he envisioned for himself when running for public office months ago. Now, the only way to lead the citizens of Fort Repose effectively is by force, evidenced by the moment in which he pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot the men at the trading post if they do not serve as pallbearers. Now, force rules society; even Ben Franklin is trusted with a gun, and encouraged when he shoots the German Shepherd to save their food. Commands and reasoning are not enough to bring about action if they are not backed by force.

In a society like this, it follows that the proper way to deal with force is to use force in return. When Dan Gunn is attacked and robbed by the highwaymen, Randy's immediate solution is to hunt them down and kill them. He shows no hesitation in this resolution, because in the post-war survival-of-the-fittest world, the only way to end the violence is with more violence. While Randy has upheld most of his moral code in the face of tragedy, he has no qualms with killing in order to protect his family and the people who have come to trust him.

Lib has also transformed over the course of the novel, and at last Randy has realized how much she has done for him and how much he truly does love her. Gone is the naïve, worried young girl, replaced by a woman who is endlessly resourceful, perceptive, and intelligent. She shows her devotion to Randy time and time again, and before this she seemed to slip his notice as more important survival matters took precedent, but now that he has declared his intention to marry her, their relationship is finally solidifying into something real and tangible.

Helen's episode while cutting Randy's hair is key to understanding her complexities as a character. She has shown immense strength until now, holding herself together for the sake of her kids and their survival, running the house courageously and efficiently. The loss of her husband, though, has taken an incredible toll, and her resolute facade falters as she hallucinates, believing Randy is Mark. Lib's analysis is accurate; she has no way to resolve the conflict created by Mark's absence and her longing to give her love to someone, so she slips up briefly. Ultimately she does realize her mistake, and it is doubtful that she will let it happen again.