Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth Abides

I very much enjoyed the book Earth Abides.
The book deals with the topic of post-apocalyptic America very well, introducing a variety of issues that I have not given thought to before. For example there was a fairly heavy focus on animal and wild life. This area is not generally given much attention in apocalyptic texts, and I found it to be interesting and realistic. We see how nature begins to reclaim the land, and given time, everything humans worked for is destroyed and reclaimed by nature. This is a running theme through many post apocalyptic texts, showing images of collapsed buildings or skyscrapers covered in wild life (The Road and I Am Legend). However the book also makes reference to how many things will die or fail to function properly without the presence of man. Fires lay waste to the country side, animals are free to wipe out other species and certain plants will not have the ability to live.
It’s interesting to see that the survivors at first lived like scavengers and despite all the talk of building a new civilisation, continued to live off ‘old world’ luxuries, until circumstances forced them to act. This shows how the tribe are longing for their old life styles back, never truly accepting the circumstances which they are in.

We see that Ish is almost obsessed with the idea that for civilisation to start over there is a need for education. In many apocalyptic texts we see there ‘hero’ as being a strong and determined man, with little focus being on his education. With Ish however we see that he is dependant on ‘Joey’ being able to learn and ultimately lead the tribe into a new era of civilisation “Only by the power of intelligence, Ish believed firmly, had man kind ever risen to civilisation”

Two major topics struck me towards the end of the book, firstly the encounter with Charlie. This echoes the notion which lies deeply embedded within American life of ‘the fear of the outsider’. “But what raised the worst shivers in Ish at such moments in the night was the thought of men”
This subject crops up all throughout American history and is now reflected in the book. Ish is no longer scared of animals or weather problems, but of a man who has come from an unknown place. This fear ultimately escalates to the execution of Charlie, showing basic human savage nature. “And now the first act of the state, its originating function, had been to bring death.”
The harshness of the community is also reflected in the discussions about Evie as well as other outsiders, stating that they are too dumb or mentally ill, and should not taint the tribe’s gene pool.

The second point was how the new tribe (at the end of the book), greatly resembled that of the Native Americans. They have animal skin clothing, the start of a new language etc. It also reflects how insignificant money is in the long run, as they use old dimes and pennies for arrow heads, which are scattered everywhere.

Finally I thought the book was almost a critique on the wastefulness of the American lifestyle. Early on it describes how there was no need to re use anything, as you can just pick up a new one. This reflects current consumer attitudes.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the book does make it feel very realistic, with all humans hard work during millions of years has just been taken over by nature and destroyed, this can be seen in places such as ghost towns and in some areas where war has compelled an area.
    I agree fully that charlie was an interesting subject, knowing that normally humans fear wild animals and natural disasters but not their own species, leading to death, so surly they have not started a new leaf in the chapter of humanity, but have gone back in time to the days when people such as slaves were killed, just because they were disliked.