Literary References in Z for Zachariah

References to Literature and Music in the Story

In her diary, Ann makes reference to several works of literature and a couple of musical pieces.  Most of these works seem directly relevant to what happens in the story, often suggesting ideas that seem important for understanding the situation of Ann and Loomis. For specific information about each work referenced in the story, click on its name or visit the separate website Z for Zachariah Literary References.

  • While hiding in a cave from a stranger who comes to her valley, Ann misses going to church on Sunday, where she sometimes read from her favorite books of the Bible: Psalms and Ecclesiastes (Ch4, p.37).
  • During the first days that Ann cares for Loomis after he develops radiation sickness, she plays Beethoven's Für Elise on the piano for him, along with some pieces from a lesson book and the two hymns "How Great Thou Art" and "In the Garden" (Ch7, p.73). He says afterwards, "This is the best evening I ever spent" (74). Later, when Loomis is in the worst stages of the sickness and breathing only faintly, Ann plays for him for an hour, "hoping it would penetrate to wherever he was" (Ch12, p.129).
  • Playing hymns for Loomis reminds Ann of Sunday School and a picture book called The Bible Letter Book.  Ann writes that because this book began with "A is for Adam" (about the first man) and ended with "Z for Zachariah," she assumed for a long time "Zachariah must be the last man" (Ch7, p.75).
  • After Loomis explains how to pump gas manually, Ann is so happy to be able to plow the cornfield using the tractor that she feels like singing. Since she cannot hear herself sing, she chooses to recite one of her favorite poems, which includes the lines, "Oh earth, unhappy planet born to die, / Might I your scribe or your confessor be" (Ch9, p.96). These are lines from an 18-sonnet poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay called "Epitaph for the Race of Man." 
  • During the worst period of Loomis' illness, Ann reads quietly to him because of feeling "it was good for him to know someone was there" (Ch12, p.126). Bringing an anthology from her room, she chooses a poem she thinks will be soothing: Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." 
  • As Loomis regains his strength (and Ann becomes increasingly nervous with him), he asks her one night to read to him again.  After reading Gray's "Elegy" (perhaps for 10 minutes), Ann begins Jane Austen's romantic novel Pride and Prejudice (Ch17, p.168).  After reading perhaps another 20-30 minutes, Ann accidentally skips from page 17 to 20.  She explains in her diary, "I read on for half a page before I realized that I had left out the whole episode about Mr. Bonaventure and his money, so that what I was reading made no sense" (169).  Since Ann reads for over an hour, she probably reaches at least the end of Chapter 6 in the story. Ann's reference to "Mr. Bonaventure" seems to allude to the character Mr. Darcy, whose admirable income and offensive pride are described first in Chapter 3 and again in Chapter 5. The word "bonaventure" means "good fortune."  The name applies to Mr. Darcy because he is wealthy and therefore also a fortunate match for any woman able to win his affection. 
  • The next night, Loomis asks Ann to play the piano, so she plays a Clementi Sonatina (a sonatina by Muzio Clementi) and "a very slow and easy Andante by Heller" (Ch18, p.171).  Stephen Heller wrote 3 sets of Andantes with the title "Im Walde" ("In the Woods").
  • The last literary reference in the story is to a high school anthology of English literature called Famous Short Stories of England and America, which Ann took to the cave when she first hid there.  She finds it still there along with some other supplies after she runs away from Loomis (Ch20, p.187).  When Loomis tracks her to the cave about 2 weeks later, he burns the book together with her other things (Ch23, p.225).

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