Character Analysis: Isherwood Williams From Earth Abides By George R. Stewart

971 words - 4 pages

During trying times throughout American history, people have had to adapt to immense struggles and adversity in order to survive. During the Pilgrims’ first winter, the American Revolution, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, individuals pushed themselves beyond their limits and out of their comfort zones to face down loss and hardship. Following in their footsteps, Isherwood Williams from the book Earth Abides overcomes an unforgiving environment, numerous tragedies, and (most importantly) himself in order to help himself and his “tribe” succeed against all odds in a post-apocalyptic world.Immediately following the Great Disaster, Ish returns to find his city frighteningly hollow and deserted, and he soon realizes what has happened. A plague has swept across the country, and he is the lone survivor, or one of very few. However, he does not let the shock of the event destroy him, and before long he is out on the road with a clear understanding that the world has changed, as evidenced by his treatment of the first person he discovers:“‘You stay here,’ he said to the collapsed body, on chance that it might still be able to hear. ‘I promise to come back.’ Having said this, Ish felt he had fulfilled a kind of minimal duty. He had really no hope. The eyes showed that Mr .Barlow had seen too much; the pulse, that he had gone too far. Ish drove away, making note, however, of the location” (Stewart 31).After coming across the drunkard and seeing his condition, Ish quickly determines what he should do, and though he feels great pity, he does not let his emotions or sentiment keep him from doing it. Unlike Mr. Barlow, he has a purpose, and doesn’t let himself get distracted.Ish continues to explore the country and eventually comes across a pair of survivors who he finds very pleasant. They are Milt and Ann, two city-dwellers who are still enjoying life despite the tragedy that has befallen the world, and they invite Ish to stay with them. However, after analyzing their situation much like he did Mr. Barlow’s, he again decides that he must move on.“They were like the highly bred spaniels and Pekinese who at the end of their leashes had once walked along the city streets. Milt and Ann, too, were city-dwellers, and when the city died, they would hardly survive without it. […] The Drive curved, and he knew that they would now be out of his sight, even if he turned around” (Stewart 75).Despite the fun he has with them, he still doesn’t forget his survival instincts, and he has the strength to let go when the time comes. Ish’s ability to make such difficult decisions will continue to serve him throughout his journey.After weeks spent on his own, Ish finally discovers someone who he wants to spend the rest of his life...

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