Earth Abides - The Quick Years Summary & Analysis

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The Quick Years Summary

Over the coming years, the children routinely return to the bows and arrows though mostly in play. The adults occasionally come together and though there may be dissention, they agree that anything decided there applies to them all. Ish sees these as two things he's accomplished. When arguments erupt during the meetings, Ish pounds the hammer and so the power of the hammer remains fixed in the minds of the younger generations. Year Twenty-Three is the Year of the Mad Wolf, Year Twenty-Four is the Year of the Blackberries and Year Twenty-Five is the Year of the Long Rain. In Year Twenty-Six, George dies though it's not clear whether he fell from a ladder and killed himself or had a heart attack. No one follows his tradition of keeping the houses repaired after that. Maurine died that same year prompting the name, the Year George and Maurine Died. Over the next five years, the names run together - the Good Corn Year, the Red Sunset Year and the Year Evie Died.

In Year Thirty-Four, a messenger from a group on the opposite side of the Bay requests that they be allowed to merge. The memory of Charlie's disease lingers but there are young men who need wives and a lack of new blood lines resulting in cousins intermarrying and the new people were admitted. Many of them soon had the measles. Then Em takes ill and Ish first believes it to be appendicitis. He wonders if he can read the medical books and do surgery on her but is afraid. He does use medicines from the drug stores to help keep the pain at bay and soon knows that it's not appendicitis. It is fatal and she soon dies with the warning to him that he need not care so much for the loss of civilization because their children and grandchildren will go on. Molly and Jean soon die as well, leaving Ezra and Ish of the original seven adults. At Ezra's request, Ish takes another wife who has no husband and has children though he says he scarcely thinks of them as his own as they are not Em's as well. There comes a day when she comes to him with a younger man, and he gives her his blessing to leave.

At the end of Year Forty-Three, the practice of carving the year in the rock falls by the wayside. Ezra and Ish spend hours sitting in the sun, talking of days gone by. Ish considers that even if the virus attack hadn't happened, he'd now be growing old. He might have become a professor and would now be puttering around the campus planning new research and getting in the way of the younger professors, but he'd still be old and approaching the end of his life. His days are often hazy though he is sometimes clear-headed. One day he realizes that Ezra is gone. As Ish considers his life, it occurs to him that of the original seven people who formed this community that is called a tribe, he is the last to call himself an American.

The Quick Years Analysis

It's interesting to note that at least for the next few generations after the merger with the new people, there are two distinct clans among Ish's tribe. There are the First Ones and The Others. In the coming years, wives will move into the tribes of their husbands. It seems to be something of a social order and is almost reminiscent of historical references to those of "old money" versus those of "new money." There does, however, seem to be no class distinction in this case and there's no indication whether the First Ones have any additional status or privileges over The Others.

Ish's role in the tribe becomes very hazy around this point. He says that he's well cared for by the members of the tribe and that someone brings him food and sees to his needs. However, there are also those who come to him for advice of varying kinds. He can still use the barometer to make fairly accurate weather predictions but sometimes the requests are for information he doesn't have. For example, young men may ask him which way they should go for the best hunting. If he doesn't answer, they pinch him. It's interesting that they show him such respect in some ways but disrespect him with the pinching.

This section contains 747 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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