Earth Abides

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Imagine waking up and looking around, only to realize that while you were asleep ninety percent of the world population had vanished. In the novel Earth Abides, George Stewart creates this scenario and makes it a reality. The novel is centered on the life of Ish, who wakes up only to find he is one of the few left on earth. Having to survive and adapt, Ish is faced with the responsibility of making contact with other survivors of the Great Disaster. In doing so, Ish meets several characters and together they form a tribe to fit the new lifestyle. Ish becomes the leader of the group and the main focus of the story; however, he is not the only important character. Some members of the community immerge and become important figures as well.

In the novel Earth Abides, we see a tribe with only a few members, grow and develop into a community with over three hundred members. In a new world and with such hard conditions, The Tribe managed to survive successfully. This task was not easy, considering all the other people in the world who had failed. Many other survivors of the Great Disaster, killed themselves, drank their life away, and did not look for reason to live in a civilized manner. However, The Tribe overcame all of that and aimed itself in the right direction for yet another try at Mother Nature. Their success was mainly based on the fact that the members from the Old Times were able to adjust and adapt. They made use of the resources and in some way put the Great Disaster behind them. These members found their place in The Tribe and built a strong foundation for their children.

Of such roles, one of the most important is that of a leader. The leader has to take charge of the group, make heavy decisions, and have knowledge and understanding of the world around him. It is the leaders' duty to prepare his people and make sure that they are able to survive and care for themselves. In the novel, we can see this in the character of Ish. From the moment Ish realized what had happened to the he had the desire to be a leader. When he met the black family in his cross-country trip and thought to himself, "I could be a king here if I remained." Later in the novel Ishs desires for leadership are even more noticeable when The Tribe first comes into contact with Charlie. Ish is the only one who feels hostility towards Charlie and act awkwardly around him, despite not knowing anything about him. Ish does this at first not because he senses danger and wants to protect The Tribe from Charlie. But instead, Ish felt his position threatened by Charlie, "the fact might be also that he himself was too narrowly prejudice against the man, (speaking of Charlie) out of a spirit of rivalry...Or it at worst, it would be a struggle of factions against two opposing leaders." Ish undoubtedly wanted to be the leader of The Tribe and did not want to settle for anything less.

Ish became the leader of The Tribe not only because of his desires, but he was well more qualified than the rest of the members. Ezra was "too easy going" and George "had been too stupid." Ish on the other hand had "intellectual leadership" and was the only one who read books and had knowledge of what was happening around him. The other members from the Old Times did not go to college or have as good an education as Ish had. To Ish, most things were very simple and easy to understand. All the members in the group often came to Ish for advice and answers. During the plagues of the cows and grasshoppers, no one except Ish knew what was happening. When the water had ran out, again only Ish knew how to solve the problem. Ish did not only have answers to a lot of question, but like all great leaders, always planned and thought ahead. "Why am I the one who has to think five, ten, twenty years into the future?" No other member cared or thought about what resources they were going to run out of and use up. Ish in many ways