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George R. Stewart Writing Styles in Earth Abides

This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Earth Abides.
This section contains 819 words
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Point of View

The book is written in third-person and the majority if from the limited perspective of only Isherwood Williams. The mechanism works for this story because it means that the reader has a view of his thoughts, ideas and actions. There are times when the limited point of view could be a distraction. For example, when two young men of the tribe go on an expedition, the reader is left to wonder about the fate of the two - just as their families were left to worry about their return. While this does make a distraction on an impatient reader, it's also effective in keeping the reader turning pages in the desire to find out what is to happen next.

There are exceptions to this limited point of view are excerpts set apart by italicized text that offer a wider explanation for things. For example, while Ish remains in the mountains battling the disease and the effects of the rattlesnake bite, he is unaware of what's happening to the world outside. The reader is informed though, through these set-apart texts. There are other places where this occurs - when Ish is overrun by ants and then by rats, when the water suddenly stops flowing to the houses, and why other communities are evolving differently than the tribe of Ish.

Setting

The book is set in the United States with the majority of the events occurring in an around San Francisco's San Lupo Drive. The places described are, at least for the most part, real places. There are descriptions of San Francisco itself, the Bay Bridge and streets and highways in that area. During Ish's trip to the east and back, he encounters well-known cities such as Needles, Mojave, Chicago, Little Rock and New York City. He describes the streets of New York and the bride across the river into Memphis, Tennessee. The fact that all these places exist add a touch of realism to the story and most readers will be familiar with at least some of the places.

However, some descriptions seem less realistic though that too may be for the readers' benefit. For example, he sees only a few dead bodies even in the huge metropolitan area where disposal methods would likely have broken down well before there were only the final few hundred survivors to carry on the process. It seems likely that Ish would have encountered more corpses during his travels but the reader hears about only a few and that Ish can occasionally smell the odor of decaying bodies.

Language and Meaning

The book is easy to read and the plot easy to follow. Few words or phrases won't be understood by any reader. Though there are a few dated passages, mainly in the description of places, the writing is somewhat timeless. The book was copyrighted in 1949 and that was renewed in 1976, but the language and meaning remains functional to a modern-day reader. There are disturbing passages, including descriptions of how some died. Of note are the way dogs and other animals that were penned up typically died of thirst.

It's noteworthy that Ish almost immediately accepts the fact that most of humanity - if not all - has been wiped out by this virus of which he had no knowledge until he emerged from the mountains. He seems almost too complacent, as one would not really expect from a person who finds that his parents and all his acquaintances are suddenly gone. This could be a defense mechanism and it's at least reasonable that it could be the reaction of a highly intelligent scholarly person such as Ish. However, the speed with which he accepts the circumstances and his subsequent actions seem almost contrived to move the story along quickly. In that capacity, it works, making the story move from the time of his discover to the time of his newly established "tribe" quickly enough to hold the reader's interest.

Structure

The book is divided into three sections, World Without End, The Year 22 and The Last American. Each is subdivided into chapters of widely varying lengths. There are also two additional sections called "The Quick Years" and each of these covers a range of several years over just a few pages, giving only a few brief highlights of those years.

The interesting thing about this book is that there are sections set apart merely by way of italicized text that contain an overview of what's happening outside Ish's own personal range of vision or is explaining some event in Ish's life. These read almost like Biblical excerpts and give insight into an array of topics. For example, when Ish is overrun by ants, he's baffled. One of the sections of italicized text indicates that there was plentiful food for the ants and that created a population boom that is now becoming a problem because the food supplies are drying up.

This section contains 819 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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