Burdened: Analysis of | Teen Ink

Burdened: Analysis of

February 8, 2019
By KingOfTheRats PLATINUM, Kirkwood, Missouri
KingOfTheRats PLATINUM, Kirkwood, Missouri
24 articles 38 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"The theater is an empty box, and it is our task to fill it with fury and ecstasy, and with revolution."

We live in a fundamentally solid world. Yes, we all have our problems, we occasionally face some major problems in life, but in an overall sense, our modern society has things pretty good. Which, naturally, leads us to wonder: What if we didn’t?

If the worst happened, would we remain a strong, resilient community? Would we overcome unknown challenges of greater magnitude than we could ever expect? Or are we, as humans designed mainly for survival, more malleable in adapting to dangerous experiences? What separates our psyches from those of merciless animals?

Which, but of course, leads us to Ashfall. Yes, Ashfall, a traditional post-apocalyptic, teen-pandering novel. As you can guess, I don’t really appreciate the book itself, but there are some more subtle moments one can’t help but appreciate. As our protagonist, Alex, gains allies and enemies while traversing an ash-covered, dying planet, the reader is able to experience the ups and downs of a more survivalist existence, and peer inside Alex’s mind as he makes futile attempts to reach the rest of his family. His journey wears on his psyche, and his constant struggle to keep his moral code and spirit where they once were is a chilling reminder of how quickly one can fall into the insanity of a constantly stressful situation.

We get to see Alex briefly as a normal kid in a normal world, but when environmental chaos strikes, Alex is slow to adjust to the anarchy his surroundings have become. He simply cannot believe that his entire community became so quick to panic. “What was it with Cedar Falls? People here had always been nice enough. But somehow the volcano had turned them into looters. Was everyone crazy now? We should have been sticking together and helping each other, not wrecking stuff.” (Mullin 66.)

But when Alex reaches his school for refuge, his own morals begin to deteriorate. It starts very small, when he defends his personal food supply from looting, using threats. “I felt horrible. It was wrong, nasty even, to threaten [a classmate]. But I couldn’t think of any alternative. I didn’t want everyone to help themselves to my food.” (Mullin 74.) Although the event is insignificant at the time, it becomes the first cautious step in Alex’s slow progression from civilized teen to amoral survivalist.

But the world’s humanity is crumbling alongside Alex’s, and at a much faster rate. When Alex is pursued by Target, a murderous ex-convict, he is forced to take a much larger leap away from ethics by attempting to kill another person. “I stabbed the tip of my [weapon] forward in a desperate strike… but I never figured I’d have to use it for real.” (Mullin 123.)

As time progresses, Alex learns to do his best to keep those around him alive and safe, but there is no doubt that he has suffered through some major adjustments. Throughout the course of the story, Alex becomes much more nihilistic and angry with the collapsing world around him.

They say a book should be about the journey, not the destination, and with Ashfall, this is definitely the case. Even when Alex reaches some of his family, his internal turmoil has made him less hopeful, yet more mature. There’s a little hope for him to turn somewhat back into the happy teen he once was, but throughout his journey, Alex has lost a lot of trust in the beliefs that make us human. Or, as Alex says, “For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own.” (Mullin 257.)

The author's comments:

I didn't really like the book, but I recognize that it has found its audience, and for that it should be commended.

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