Z for Zachariah
Robert C. O’Brien

by contributor

Sharon Fleming

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Robert C. O’Brien
Year Published
Science Fiction
About the Title

“Z for Zachariah” is a science-fiction story written by Robert C. O’Brien, which is a pen name for Robert Leslie Conly. The novel was first published in 1974 and consists of a wide range of themes including dystopia, where the reader gets the feel of the dark atmosphere and setting in which the environment has been destroyed, along with all living things — including humans — have perished. It speaks of corpses lining walkways and homes but also touches on lighter themes of heroism, survival, and hope. The novel is written in the first person point-of-view of the protagonist, Ann Burden. It describes the human struggle and life of this defiant young girl and revolves around the sixteen-year-old having survived a gas attack and a nuclear war thanks to the small valley she calls home. The post-apocalyptic novel gives a description of the daily routine of Ann, how she fends for herself living in isolation and solitude, unable to venture outside the valley for fear of being exposed to the radioactive environment that has left entire surrounding regions forsaken and treacherous. Her only source of safe water bubbles from under the valley. Ann survives by raiding the local stores for her daily supplies and also tends to the animals and crops in the small farm. It is not until a year later that she comes into contact with the first human being, John Loomis, who comes into the village wearing a radiation suit. From this point, the author lets the reader experience firsthand what Ann goes through as she struggles to survive and dealing with both internal and external conflicts. The use of first-person writing accentuates the theme of survival by giving the reader an opportunity to get into Ann’s mind and virtually face her challenges. We can almost vividly share the feelings of Ann’s solitude, desolation, and emptiness.

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