In the Bible, the ancient city of Babylon is depicted as a place of evil and sin, doomed to be destroyed by God on Judgment Day. Pat Frank’s novel depicts America as a modern Babylon which, due to the human-created evil of war, is all but destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse. It is significant that as Ensign Cobb prepares to fire the rocket that will begin the war, he sees off in the distance “the hills of Megiddo, also called Armageddon.” In the Bible, Armageddon is the site of the final battle before the end of the world.
The name of the town of Fort Repose suggests a military fort in repose, or rest. The name is symbolic of the fact that the sleepy town, like the rest of the nation, is ill prepared for the event of war. One of the central messages of Frank’s book is the importance of education and preparedness for the possibility of nuclear war and its aftermath.
The radioactive jewelry that kills Porky Logan, Bigmouth Bill, and Pete Hernandez, as well as blackening the ring finger of the seductive Rita, can be seen as symbolic of the danger of greed and selfishness in a time of trouble. These characters, rather than working to help their neighbors and the town as a whole, are concerned only with accumulating wealth for themselves. This type of behavior, according to Pat Frank, backfires in the end, as only cooperation, not opportunism, enables the long-term survival of a community. While the three men die, Rita—who does penance by loaning her grocery truck to Randy so he can capture a gang of bandits—survives, presumably with a more humble and generous attitude.