Earth Abides, Humanity Does Not

I think in this day and age, people get a certain idea in their heads when they hear the phrase “Post-Apocalyptic Fiction,” because that term in literature has a much different connotation today than it did 30 or 40 years ago. Today it’s primarily associated with things like The Hunger Games, or Divergent or even The Maze Runner (whatever that is). If you asked that question 30 years ago, the immediate response would be something akin to I Am Legend, or The Stand, which arguably paved the way for the post-apocalyptic fiction of today. I find it interesting how influential The Stand is, primarily because it seems to have been influenced heavily by Earth Abides.

Prior to this class I had never even heard of The Earth Abides, and it was relatively hard to track down on Amazon, but now having read it, I see its influence all over The Stand, and by extension many other novels which followed in its footsteps. I Am Legend as well, probably more so, but having not read I am Legend I cannot really comment. Throughout the novel, Stewart makes significant commentary on the human condition in the absence of human society. He shows us a very bleak picture of the human race practically tearing itself apart in the face of adversity. He shows us that when truly faced with the advent of our extinction, we do not face it with dignity.

The ultimate commentary that Stewart is making with Earth Abides is that as humans we think ourselves more important than we truly are. The Earth has existed long before the dawn of Homo sapiens, and will continue to spin long after we’re gone (hence the title). Stewart even says within the novel, “As for man, there is little reason to think that he can in the long run escape the fate of other creatures, and if there is a biological law of flux and reflux, his situation is now a highly perilous one. During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilences, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens.” He’s basically saying that we’ve had it too good for too long and that we’ve been doing nothing but bragging about it, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. The Earth Abides, but humanity does not, and most probably never will as far as Stewart is concerned.

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