Earth Abides - Part 1: Chapters 6 through 8 Summary & Analysis

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Part 1: Chapters 6 through 8 Summary

When the power fails Ish is suddenly again fighting panic. He soon finds that it's a nuisance because of the lack of refrigeration but that he can survive comfortably. He notes changes in his world - that a drain is plugged and water flow rerouted and that there's a billy goat in an area where there were previously none. The next day, as the weather cools, he notes smoke that seems to be coming from a fireplace. He refuses to go that direction and heads away from the column of smoke. He cites the less-than-successful attempts at human contact as his reason. Then he critically asks if Robinson Crusoe really wanted to be rescued, seeming to make a parallel to himself and the question of whether he really wanted human companionship. After a day's roaming in the car, he returns to find no sign of the smoke. He's relieved but disappointed until later that evening he sees light coming from a house in the same direction. He heads that way and has almost changed his mind about an encounter when Princess runs to the door, barking. The door opens and a light shines in Ish's face. He realizes that he's possibly made a fatal mistake but then a female voice says, "That's a beautiful dog." Princess invites herself in, and Ish meets Em.

They share a meal and talk for some time, Em encouraging Ish to share his story. He considers the way he would once have courted a girl but knows those days are gone. When he realizes that she's read his thoughts, he's embarrassed but then she goes into another room, apparently leaving him to follow.

In the morning light, Ish evaluates the situation. He says that Em is older than he is and no raving beauty and worries that he's mixing some vague "mother image" into his thoughts. He decides that he has to focus on the positive, dresses and goes down for breakfast. He continues to worry until he looks into her eyes and then he instantly feels security and courage and knows that the two of them will endure. They move to Ish's house only because it seems easier to move to his house where all his books are than to move his books to her house.

After a time, she broaches the subject of children. She's told Ish that she had two children before and he assumes that her marriage had been happy though she never offers details. Now she tells him that he can read books about childbirth and that she won't need much help as she's been through it before. Ish's first reaction is that it's dangerous and that there's no point. She tells him that she wants a child. Then she strikes a match, watches it burn for a moment, then blows it out. He says that he understands her message - that the human race won't go on without a next generation.

They are next invaded by rats and Ish takes a great interest in trying to mathematically work out how many rats could possibly have populated the city at that point. He says that after a few generations of rats, his mathematics breaks down. They discover that there are no rat populations outside the city and almost flee but resist the temptation. They find a dog's skeleton that seemed to have been chewed by rats and keep Princess inside. Then the rats begin to fight and to eat each other. Ish notes that they aren't destroying individual rats but are actually preserving the species.

As soon as he knows Em is pregnant, he drives to the university campus library to find a book on obstetrics. He can't get in so he carefully breaks a window and patches the opening afterward to keep rats and rain out. He and Em soon consider that they need to know the date or at least to be able to mark the passing of the years. He sets up a surveyor's transit and at the date when the sun reached its southernmost point, they marked the end of a year. They decide they will celebrate that as their New Year. When that time comes, they agree to mark the year by chiseling it onto a large rock near their house. Em suggests that it should be Year One. Ish admits that the thought of the coming child makes a huge difference in his own outlook.

Part 1: Chapters 6 through 8 Analysis

Ish notes among the changes around him that a drainage ditch becomes plugged and water runs into a neighbor's home. While he admits that he could unplug the drain, he says there's no use because he's one person and there are ditches all over the world that have become clogged. He continues throughout most of his life to have the idea that he and only he can save civilization but that he is not capable of doing it alone. It seems that he continues to search for someone equal to himself. When he finds Em and it's apparently that he's going to bed with her, he says that he has only one fear - that of pregnancy in a world with no doctors.

One day, the car won't start and Ish is on the verge of panic and dreading the thought of working on it when she says simply that it's not a big deal. She points out that they have no where to be at an appointed time and they make a game of finding a different car, locating a battery and figuring out how to fill it with acid and make it work.

Then Em tells him that she's pregnant and immediately begins to cry. Thinking that she's afraid, he says that there are ways to eliminate the pregnancy but she says that's not the reason for her tears. She says that he's told her she has nice hands, but has never noticed "the blue in the half moons." He says that he is shocked and that she feels his shock. She says that her "mother's people never had much luck in the world." She says that she has come to think that maybe she shouldn't be among those to repopulate. Then she says that she mainly just couldn't stand to think that she might have deceived him. He begins to laugh and says that the "Jew-baiters and the Negro-baiters" are gone just as the government is gone, and that some day people might have the luxury of worrying about such things. He says that for the time being, they have to worry about things such as ants and rats. He says this is the one time he saw things more clearly and was stronger than Em.

When Ish enters the library, his goal is to find books to help Em with her coming childbirth. Instead, he finds himself caught up in the number of books covering the array of subjects. He's suddenly assured that as long as these books exist, civilization will be rebuilt. It's a problem Ish will combat all his life but it's not uncommon for the older generation to hate change and to hope that the next generation will move to the "old ways." In this case, the old ways seem infinitely better to Ish than the current situation where there is no electricity, no creativity and he's left to scavenge for the things he needs.

This section contains 1,246 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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