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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Alas, Babylon

1. Why do you think Frank selected a phrase from The Revelation of John as the title of his book? To what extent do you think he intended the references to Babylon in Chapters 17 and 18 of The Revelation to apply to the United States of the 1950s? To what extent might they apply to the United States today?

2. What instances are there of people being in positions of power or public authority who should not be, before and after The Day? How does Randy's exercise of authority contrast with that of others, from the pilot Peewee to Bubba Offenhaus, Edgar Quisenberry, and Porky Logan?

3. What details reveal the specifics--and the inanity--of race relations in the American South during the late 1950s? Does the novel suggest any way of resolving the race issue? How does Randy's relationship with the Henrys go against his community?

4. In Chapter 4, Helen points out that her children, and all children in the late 1950s, "have lived under the shadow of war--atomic war. For them the abnormal has become normal." Do children today live under a comparable shadow or shadows? If so, what are the possible consequences for them?

5. What are the consequences--for Randy himself, for his family and friends, and for all of Fort Repose--of Randy's decision, in Chapter 5, that "he would have to play by the old rules"? In what ways do Randy and others subsequently act in accordance with or in opposition to "the old rules"?v

6. What is the sequence of the escalating breakdown of "normal" order, institutions, and public services? How do people react to the sudden absence of services and procedures that they--we--take for granted? Would reactions today be different or similar? What do you think is the most serious loss?

7. In Chapter 5, Frank writes of bank president Edgar Quisenberry that "He had forgotten the implacable law of scarcity." How would you define/describe that law? How does it come into play for the people of Fort Repose, and what effects does it have?

8. Is Helen's "inventory of necessities," in Chapter 6, realistic and appropriate? What would be included in your inventory of necessities in the case of a similar catastrophe? Why?

9. What factors of character and circumstance justify Randy's assuming responsibility for and authority over Fort Repose? Is his thought in Chapter 7--"When you had the responsibility you also had the right to command"--explanation enough?

10. To what extent does "survival of the fittest" apply in Fort Repose after The Day? What do Randy and the others understand that phrase to mean? What do you understand it to mean?

Alas, Babylon
by Pat Frank

  • Publication Date: April 1, 1999
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060931396
  • ISBN-13: 9780060931391