The Earth Abides is unlike any other post-apocalyptic novel or story that I have ever read. Many times when you read these types of stories, the author focuses on narrow ideas. Usually the majority of the story revolves around fending off various attackers and simply finding a place to repopulate the Earth while dealing with personality clashes, like in Walking Dead. While George Stewart brings up these concepts, he also focuses on much larger issues and uses the idea of the end of human existence as we know it as a platform to show the reader some of humanity’s flaws, hypocrisies, and injustices. The story begins with the protagonist Ish as he travels throughout America, experiencing a world without humanity. In his journey to discover what life has become, Ish witnesses the ugly side of the human condition after the convenient, organized walls of society come crashing down. He meets a man drinking himself to death, a couple who seem to have gone insane, a fearful woman who ran at the sight of another human, and a couple who still pretend that nothing has changed. Once back in California, Ish and his wife Em form a “Tribe” as they attempt to repopulate the world. Ish states numerous times in the book that he feels like an observer as opposed to a participant in life. He finds himself slipping into the “darkness” as he puts it, until his son Joey is born. Joey is what he had been waiting for, which was someone to continue his line of intelligence. As Joey dies, so does a part of his hope for the future of mankind as humanity resorts back to a more superstitious and simplistic state.
The author uses the absence of a regular society to show us some of the hypocrisies that cultures tend to adopt and to take for granted. He highlights racial injustices, issues that arise from organized religion, sexual stereotypes, the importance of reading and education, the impact society has on the environment, in addition to showing just how blind people can become when survival is not a day-to-day concern.
Perhaps his most important theme is the insignificance of the human race. This is the first thing I noticed as he talks about the various impacts the lack of humanity has on animals, plants, and the overall x. People tend to think that we have this firm grasp on our environment, but in reality we are just as close to extinction as many of the animals he highlights in the book. This is shown on the page before the introduction with the quote from Ecclesiastes, “Men go and come, but Earth abides.” This is the message that I took away from the book, which is that life on Earth should not be taken for granted. We are a part of life and nature; we do not control them. We get back what we put forth into the Earth. AKA Earth Abides.