The book I have been reading was called “Z for Zachariah” by Robert C. O’Brien. The two elements that contributed to my understanding and pleasure in this novel were the structure of the novel and the power struggle the main characters had to survive. The novel was about a sixteen year old girl called Ann who kept a diary after a nuclear attack devastated the country in which she lived. In the diary Ann spoke about being the only person to survivor.
This soon changed though as a man with a safe suit called Mr Loomis arrived in her valley, who was privileged enough to posses a “safe suit.
Ann had always hoped that someone else had survived, to help to repopulate the world but her initial joy was then replaced with the fear that he could be a murderer or he could take full control of the valley and her life. He soon fell ill, and Ann nursed him to health.
However their relationship started to deteriorate and by the end Ann managed to escape from him. She had the “safe suit” in her possession, and was heading off to face an uncertain future. One interesting feature of the novel was that it concentrated on a tense power struggle between Ann and Loomis, and I felt great sympathy for Ann.
One reason for feeling sympathy for Ann was due to the fact that the novel was written in the style of a diary.
A diary is very personal and I felt that I understood Ann’s point of view. She wrote it in the first person “I am afraid … I think someone is coming”. The whole novel seemed to be long extracts from her diary over around two and a half months. This period of time meant that I knew her very well and I supported her in her actions. Power struggles soon began Ann and Mr Loomis. The fights were over several things including their equipment and food, but especially about their own personal power struggles.
The valley where Ann had spent all of her life became crucial in this novel. The valley was a power symbol used by both Ann and Loomis. Without the valley Ann would be dead and Mr Loomis would still be searching for safe land. As most of the valley was safe from radiation, except for a small section of the river. Crops could be grown and it was also the place where the abandoned shop and the house were located. Ann’s knowledge of the area was vital. This knowledge would also let her know where the best places to grow the crops were, but Ann feared losing them along with the valley, home, dog, shop and the potential mate in Loomis.
She gained the chance to leave the valley with the safe suit and the chance of finding other survivors. After Loomis had lost the company of Ann and the precious suit. Mr Loomis had gained a home, his equipment and food from the shop that would last in the short term. But as he had lost Ann’s knowledge, he would face a lonely and difficult future. Other symbols of power that were used in the novel to great effect were the dog, the suit and the valley. Eventually the dog was used as a tool by Loomis to track down Ann.
The dog thought it was a game and he was always eager to find Ann. “He was following my trail again, but this time leading Mr Loomis behind him. ” Mr Loomis held onto this symbol of power as he kept the dog tied up beside him all of the time, which worried her and made her think Loomis was trying to trap her. The suit was the only way out of the valley and it was the only safe way to find out if there was life beyond. The suit was the only thing that could keep out radiation and it was the only one in existence. “Mr Loomis also had the world’s only radiation-proof suit.
Mr Loomis and Ann got on well until Ann heard him talking in his dreams about a man trying to take the safe suit from him. “The suit,” he said, his voice hardly above a whisper. “He’ll steal the suit. ” Ann became anxious and felt that maybe he could become a danger to her. “If Edward was inside the suit when they were fired then he had certainly been killed. ” If he had killed someone before, he could quite easily kill again. Ann became particularly afraid one night when Mr Loomis got very aggressive and tried to force himself on her against her will.
Ann had to flee back to the cave where she stayed until she was forced to leave the valley. Ultimately Ann had to give up the security of her home and the valley that had belonged to her family because she could not live with Mr Loomis. They were possibly the only two people alive and it was sad that they couldn’t live together. This could have been the last chance that mankind had to repopulate the world. The novel was very enjoyable mainly due to the fact it was written in diary form and the tension that was created by the power struggle.