Alas, Babylon

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"Alas, Babylon." Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.

Curriculet Details
75 Questions
86 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring space technology and the atomic age, as well as annotations describing allusions, character archetypes, and contextual knowledge. Students will explore the themes of uncertainty and community. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1

Sputnik No. 1 was the first man-made satellite launched into space. The launch created the mania that led to the space race and arms race between Russia and the United States. You can watch more about the event in the link below. (This annotation contains a video)
Why do the Russians feel they are free to launch spacecraft into regions above American airspace? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
Since the reader now "sees" Randy's thoughts and inner monologue, the narrative has switched to 3rd person omniscient point of view. Omniscient point of view depicts the feelings and insights of more than one character in the work. You can watch more on this point of view in the video below. (This annotation contains a link)
What assures Randy that he is not an alcoholic? 
Why did the Lieutenant name the outpost Fort Repose? Cite information from the text to support your answer. 
There were three conflicts which made up the Seminole Wars. All of these conflicts took place in Florida. The event mentioned in this line was the second conflict. 
Babylon was a city during biblical times found in what is now present day Iraq. It became a symbol of evil and corruption according to biblical narratives. (This annotation contains an image)
The brothers use the phrase "Alas, Babylon" to convey what message? 
This expression is likely a military idiom for "receiving a promotion." 
This passage illustrates which of the following messages? 

Chapter 2

This is an idiom of British origin that means some action, excitement, or trouble has started. Though it is typically associated with the military, it is not exclusively related to martial matters. 
There is an implied theme developing in this passage. What is it? 
The desire to face death with company rather than with alone is an effort to overcome the basic situation posited by the philosophy existentialism. According to this philosophy, the individual is limited to knowing only himself or herself. 
Why is the base largely deserted? Cite specific evidence from the text support you answer. 
The purpose pf strategy is to set broad goals; the purpose of tactics is to assign resources to achieve smaller goals that in turn accomplish the larger goals. 
This passage creates a/an ____________ feeling for the reader. 
This phrase is French for "reason for existence."  
Which of the following terms best describes Mark's and Helen's relationship as discussed in this passage? 
Consider the subtext of Mark's comment. Is he suggesting that Randy should pursue a relationship with Helen if something should happen to himself? 

Chapter 3

Which of the following words best describes Edgar as illustrated in this passage? 
Perhaps this is the aforementioned "secret reason" Edgar dislikes the Braggs. 
Consider how often a proud character's certainty in his or her security precedes an event that jeopardizes his or her own self-assurance. This is a common pattern in story telling. 
How could one describe this part of Randy's personality? 
Though this passage may strike the modern reader as ignorant or backwards, consider that the novel was published before the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Characters from this time would still be accustomed to the outdated, segregated ideas of the period. Given Randy's consideration of the Henrys, the reader should understand the depth of his compassion for a man in this setting. 
The memory of Sam Perkins is used to illustrate which of the following key ideas? 
Human beings, composed of approximately 60% water, can survive up to a week without consuming water, though the maximum time limit can be made shorter if one faces difficult conditions. 
Describe Randy's opinion of Lib's physical attractiveness.  
The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon in medical science. You can learn more about this effect in the video below.  (This annotation contains a video)
What has spoiled Dan's idealism? 
This process is called desensitization, and it's believed to be the cause to a deal of human suffering. When people become accustomed to tragedy, tragedy loses its alarming effect. 
Which of the following expressions best parallels this concept? 
Studies have suggested that small luxuries during times of disaster provide a much need morale boost that can help people survive. This may be related to the power of the mind as discussed in the 'placebo effect' video previously in this chapter. 
How does this seemingly obscure headline underscore the novel's greater conflict? 

Chapter 4

Ben has used deductive reasoning to infer that their trip is not a typical vacation. Watch more about deductive reasoning in the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
The tone of this line is 
Armageddon is the location cited in the Book of Revelation from the Christian Bible as the location for the final battle of the end times. 
Describe how Peewee's character caused him to choose his course of action despite the signs that he should reconsider his choice. 
Based on this passage, the reader can infer what about Lavinia by using inductive reasoning? 
Though a more contemporary usage of "cool" might mean "suave" or "hip," this usage means something closer to "aloof." 
Recall that Peewee's ill-thought-out missile strike from earlier in the novel is what started this conflict. The Cold War was marked by several instances of near nuclear catastrophe caused by an individual's error or faulty judgment. Thankfully, no nuclear attacks were actually launched. 
"Preventing a war by starting one" is an example of which of the following devices? 
This Latin phrase does not mean simply an excuse but rather "a cause to justify war." 
How does the author build tension in this passage? 
Use the Define feature and read the definition for precocious. Which of the following words in an antonym (opposite in meaning) of precocious as it is used here? 
Note the development of themes focused on the threat of atomic war and its effect on children. Does this echo the earlier comments about desensitization? 
This expression, while literally referring to midnight, denotes a time when witches, demons, goblins, etc. come out from hiding to cause mischief. In other words, it is a time when things go wrong. 
Which of the following gives you the impression that we are approaching a potential climax? 
NORAD is the principle organization in charge of maintaining air sovereignty and defense for the United States and Canada. One of its command centers, Cheyenne Mountain Nuclear Bunker, is a heavily fortified base inside of a mountain. This location is probably similar to the one Mark is located in. You can watch a short documentary about the Cheyenne Mountain base below. (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz One 

Chapter 5

To help you with this image, note that contrails are the thin, white "clouds" created by the water vapor exiting an aircraft's engine. (This annotation contains an image)
What characteristic of Ben Franklin's speech, despite the gravity of the nuclear threat, suggests that he is (at least trying to be) casual? 
Here is a video clip of the stages of a nuclear bomb explosion, such as the one in the story. (This annotation contains a video)
Describe two themes you can take away from this preceding paragraph. Use quotes from the passage to support the development of the themes. 
Consider what this implies about Randy's character in light of the previous paragraph. 
Use the Define function look up the meaning of sallow. Which of the following words is a synonym (similar in meaning) to sallow? 
Minorca is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. You'll remember that the war conflict began in the Mediterranean, so John's presence may be of some significance in regards to that parallel. An image of Minorca is pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
When contractions consistently come in five or fewer minute(s) intervals, then the mother is in active labor and close to delivery. Contemporary doctors recommend that women go to a hospital when contractions consistently arrive ten minutes apart. 
Based on what the reader learned earlier in this chapter, what can one conclude about the lack of information coming from Miami or Tampa? 
Fort Repose, based on the real-life town Mount Dora, is about 30 miles from Orlando, which is within the damage range for a nuclear bomb of the size manufactured during the Cold War. Residents could expect small injuries from property damage, but the more pressing threat would be the radiated fallout that could fall on Fort Repose given certain wind conditions. 
How does the author structure this passage to create a hectic, frenetic feeling? 
Notice how a skilled author can use small features to signify big events. There is a certain irony when three little punctuation marks (the ellipsis) can represent destruction of the scale of a nuclear weapon. 
This sentence contains all of the following EXCEPT what? 
In what order does the narrative reveal what Edgar will not longer cash? 
This phenomenon is known as a "Bank Run;" it was one of the primary catalysts in the Great Depression. 
Consider why Edgar still does not seem to grasp the severity of his situation. 
As illustrated by this sentence, Edgar's internal conflict is 

Chapter 6

This phrase is a euphemism for 
Do you find that this loyalty to family still exists in modern times?  
Only recently has the American public taken seriously the idea of a female president, and obviously this is still yet to be a reality. Having a woman step in as Executive Chief in the 1950's would have been a compounding shock on the heels of the nuclear attacks. 
Summarize what you have learned from Mrs. Vanbruuker-Brown's radio broadcast. 
The United States leads the world in the number of guns owned per citizen (97 guns for every 100 people).  
Which of the following words most accurately describes the tone of this passage? 
Arnold J. Toynbee was a noted British historian that published a multi-volume study of history that studied the rise and fall of 26 civilizations. An image of one of the volumes is depicted below. (This annotation contains an image)
This passage is developing a theme that applies to this specific point in the book but also the book at large. Which theme is it? 
Here is a brief video explaining Geiger counters and their function. (This annotation contains a video)
This passage, along with Helen's concern for Mark, illustrates that which of the following as one of the biggest obstacles the Braggs now face? 
At the time of the novel's setting, the USSR had approximately 2,000 nuclear warheads and just as many submarines. Many U.S. officials cited this combination as the number one concern during the Cold War. 
Which of the following words best describes the war as illustrated by this passage? 
Consider whether the admiral's comments are truthful or if he is trying to feign modesty to bolster Helen's hope that Mark is still alive. 

Chapter 7

Electricity serves as a symbol representing which of the following concepts? 
An Artesian well is an underground aquifer with positive pressure that causes water to rise to the surface. You can see a diagram of such a well below. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words best describes this scene compared with the war events? 
Hydrogen Sulfide water creates a rotten egg smell through the chemical reactions of bacteria in the water. If otherwise uncontaminated, it is safe to drink. 
Consider how much good the $200 will do for Pete. With financial institutions in ruins and the influx of cash into Fort Repose, this money has no practical value like bartering and trading commodities would. 
Cappy Foracre's death most fully represents what? 
This refers to their cravings for addictive substances. 
Despite the changes brought about by the nuclear assault, this detail suggests what? 
Note the irony of the meaning of "repose" (use the define feature if necessary) and the mass destruction of Florida. 
Why does Randy feel comfortable declaring one of the others' car a community property? 
The brain needs glucose to function, so when a person with diabetes goes too long with low blood sugar, the brain stops functioning. While it is possible to recover from the coma by administering insulin or glucose, the brain will die after a period of time. 
Why has death lost its "sting" (i.e. its effect)? 
Live oaks have been confirmed to live beyond 200 years, with some estimates moving into the 400-1,000 year range. 
This episode represents what necessity for survival in the world after The Day? 

Chapter 8

Why are showering and shaving "painful luxuries"? 
Scientists have speculated that calorie-dense food is so satisfying to people because human ancestors that preferred and craved these foods lived longer to pass on their genes. Thus, contemporary peoples' cravings for these foods are a genetic legacy from our ancestors that lived longest to reproduce most. 
Describe the process by which Randy's community stays connected to the world outside. Embed quotes from the text to support your answer. 
Not only are these animals important as foodstuffs, but the resources invested in them as economic assets makes them invaluable in this setting. 
Use the Define feature to look up the meaning of remunerative. Which of the following answers most closely matches its meaning? 
Consider how often survivors of tragedies note that they appreciated the simple things of life only after suffering a great loss. 
What do the wanted ads imply? 
Consider the introduction of these ideas in Randy's life. Track their development over the remaining chapters and see if Randy is able to realize these tenets. 
What effect does the author create through this passage? 
Take note of this potential foreshadowing. If the author takes the time to suggest some importance about the fountains, it will likely reappear later in the text. 
Which of the following words best describes Rita in her entirety as she is depicted in this passage? 
Does this suggest that Peter is still out of touch with reality regarding life after The Day? 
Certain metals can hold radiation when exposed (recall Dan's earlier comment about people with gold teeth). 
This metaphor emphasizes the watches' 
Read the definition for this word and note the association between cancer and evil. 
What themes about greed and facades are developed in Rita's and Pete's story? 
Quiz Two 

Chapter 9

The lead, like a vest worn during an X-ray, will prevent the radiation from leeching out into the surrounding area. 
What is Randy implying by this comment? 
Note the wordplay on "compound disaster." A compound fracture is an escalated form of a simple fracture. This rhetorical choice illustrates the gravity of a simple mistake. 
Given the placement of the phrase, why is Randy "rolling his eyes"? 
Review this passage after you finish reading the next event between Helen and Randy. Why do you think the author included these lines immediately before such an episode? 
Summarize Lib's diagnosis of Helen's episode. Cite references to the text when necessary. 
Use the Define feature to learn the meaning of this word, and note the continued motif of God's grace for chosen people among the destruction of sinful masses. Small word choices like this one, when combined with the novel's title and allusions, reinforces these ideas. 
Recall Randy's first deer kill and consider if the feelings he experienced during that event are supposed to resonate here. 
What does Randy mean by this? 
Recall that America's allies - Western Europe - were also attacked by the Soviets. 
Which of the following answers is ironic when considered next to Lib's comment? 
"Pax Romana" translates to "Roman Peace." It was a time of relative complacency in an empire's rule, and this complacency tended to cause leaders to overlook potential downfalls. 
What does Randy now think of at the beginning and end of each day? 
While "shock" can mean "surprise" or "startle," it is also the term for a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. 
According to this passage, what does Dan represent? 
Consider the parallel between Ben's experience killing the dog and Randy's experience killing the deer. Also note how Ben needing to grow up fast is likely catalyzed by t his episode. 

Chapter 10

What are the implications of this dream becoming reality, especially in light of Randy's own responsibility for it? 
Typhoid is a life-threatening disease that is contracted through contact with bacteria in human feces. 
Note how the description of the highwaymen makes them seem otherworldly or inhuman. 
What is the effect of the author showing the events of Dan's attach rather than allowing the reader to read Dan's dialogue/telling of the episode? 
This common-place attitude toward his task marks a significant step in Randy's character evolution. 
Which of the following words best describes Randy's tone? 
Are the last parts of this order excessive? 
What message(s) that apply to the book at large may be taken away from the anecdote about the armadillos? 
Here Randy is trying to use logic and emotion to persuade Rita to lend him her truck. 
What message(s) are implied in this passage? 
Consider that Easter Sunday is meant to represent renewal and new life. 

Chapter 11

What is the narrative tone of the description of the wedding? 
[John] Paul Jones was a renowned ship captain that is sometimes called "the father of the United States Navy." 
How has the community prepared the truck for their "mission"? 
Consider whether the order of this sentence reveals why Randy is so committed to riding Fort Repose of the highwaymen. If the band had not attacked Dan, do you think Randy would be as fervent about his mission? 
How does the author create suspense in this scene? 
Why do you think Randy wants to do this? What difference would it make? 
Which of the following words best describes this action? 
Should guilt play a role in this situation?  
What does the hanging give Randy? 
Why do you think Malachai's obituary is brief and impersonal? 

Chapter 12

Which of the following is NOT one of the River Road crew's use for salt? 
Animals are drawn to natural mineral deposits from miles around to acquire important nutrients. 
How is the admiral portrayed here? 
Here is an example of the specific type of hat mentioned. (This annotation contains an image)
Captain's walks were also called widow's walks because the wives of sailors, much like Lib, would look for their return and worry if they could not see them. 
Watch the video below to review the concept of irony, which you will be asked about on this page. (This annotation contains a video)
The reader's understanding of this situation when the characters are ignorant is an example of what device? 
Florida still did not have integrated schools during the time of this novel. 
In Chapter Twelve, the tone goes from _______ to _______. 

Chapter 13

This is slang for moonshine whiskey. 
What does this helicopter represent? 
The following video will give you a glimpse at a similar type of radiation suit. (This annotation contains a video)
Prohibition was a time in the early twentieth century when alcohol was illegal (prohibited) in the United States. 
How does the River Road crew's fortune parallel the novel's earlier references to divine providence in other chapters? 
Quiz Three 
Consider the author's implications with this statement. Is this the novel's main point?