Earth Abides

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade May 2001

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Earth Abides by George R. Stewart is a novel set in the California Bay Area. It is during the mid 1900's, but its main location is on San Lupo Drive. The main characters in Stewart's novel are Isherwood Williams and The Tribe. Isherwood is mainly known as Ish, he is a strong, intelligent man. Ish is also seen as the leader of the Tribe. The Tribe is made up of, Em, Ish's wife, George, Molly, Maurine, Jean, Ezra, and the children. The Tribe all lives on San Lupo Drive in California and take care of one another. Everyone in the Tribe respects and looks up to Ish. They all believe he holds the answers to everything and often come to him for advice on things. Ish does seem as if he would make a good friend. He is someone that one could definitely count on in a time of crisis.

One specific scene in Earth Abides describes how Ish and Em come up with how they are going to keep track of the years, as they go by. Ish and Em are talking of how the New Year is near and Ish suggests that they need a system of knowing the years as they pass. Em suggests that they start all over with year one. She thinks that they should start anew and leave the past behind them, since they cannot go back now. When the New Year comes Ish, Em, and their new baby all go up to a boulder. Ish takes his hammer and chisels the number one into the rock. Ish states that it is now year one.

The novel, Earth Abides, begins with Ish in a cabin alone up in the mountains. While there he starts thinking how he has not seen any fisherman or heard any cars pass by in days. Ish becomes curious as to why this is and decides to venture down the mountain, in his car, to the Johnson's. The Johnson's own a gas station with a small market in it. When Ish gets to the Johnson's place of business, no one is there. While he is there he pumps some gas and picks up a paper. He notices the headline "Crisis Acute" after reading the article Ish learns that the United States along with other parts of the world, have been hit with a very deadly disease. Ish gets back into his car and starts driving around town, he does not find anyone. After discovering that so far he is alone, Ish decides to go on an expedition of sorts. He drives cross-country looking for people to see who may be alive and where. Along his journey he does find some people. The people he finds seem very unwelcoming and Ish does not stay long with them. Instead he turns back around and goes back to California. Ish comes back home to San Lupo Drive. Luckily enough Ish has electricity and water, until one day he notices that the lights are growing dimmer. Finally all of the lights go out and there is no longer any electricity. One day while out side with his dog Princess, Ish spots a stream of smoke along the horizon. Knowing that it could not be a fire, for if it was it would be a much bigger cloud, Ish decides to go and investigate. Along with Princess, Ish drives until he comes upon a cabin. When he gets there he finds a woman alone, who has survived this terrible ordeal. The woman, Em, comes back with Ish to San Lupo Drive. The two soon decide to become husband and wife. After living alone together, some other people crop up on San Lupo Drive, finding Ish and Em. They all decide that they will for a Tribe and live together on the street. Many years pass by with the woman having babies, trying to repopulate. Fortunately for the Tribe there has not been much sickness, except for the normal common cold, which they have found that a sulfa tablet will cure rather quickly. One day Ish and the other men decide to send to of the older boys, Bob and Dick, on an expedition to see what has happened in other parts of the county. To even maybe find other survivors. After months of waiting, Bob and Dick return but they have someone with them, Charlie. At first everyone is quite enthralled with Charlie and his wonderful tales. Everyone except Ish and George, both are very skeptical of Charlie. The Tribe finds out soon after Charlie has joined them that he is carrying disease. The find this out when Charlie becomes drunk and starts talking about wild things he has done in the past. The men in the Tribe talk and decide to get rid of Charlie and do. Soon after members of the Tribe become sick. Not having a doctor around, Ish thinks it is a cold, until others start becoming sick. Soon almost everyone is sick, including Ish himself. Going in and out of consciousness Ish does not know what is going around him. Once he comes to, Em tells him that five have died mostly children. Ish knows that his hope for the future has not died, Joey.

The message throughout the book is that no matter what the Earth Abides. The earth will be here and survive, even if the people on it do not. It is up to the people on it to survive for themselves and to populate it. I would only recommend this book for those who enjoy books of survival. In some spots the novel does move slowly and is great in detail. Stewart's novel is overall very informative and gives me one idea of how things could be if something was to happen to the human race.