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  • Leaving Cert. English (Ord.) 2006: Paper 2 The Single Text: How Many Miles to Babylon?
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B: How Many Miles to Babylon? 



I think life was very difficult for Alec living at home with his mother and father. He was an only child and, because of his family's position, led a very isolated life. The barriers of "class and education" isolated him. He did not even go to school. His mother had him home-schooled so he had no contact with other children.

His mother was a very dominant, snobby and manipulative woman and his father was a very reserved man. There was a huge amount of tension between them and Alec tended to get caught in the middle of this conflict.

When Alec's mother felt he was getting too close to his father, she thought of ways to pull them apart. Initially, she brought him on a tour of Europe. Finally, she tried to suggest that he was not really Alec's father. She was extremely controlling and did not want Alec to be friends with anyone outside his class.

When you consider all of these things, it is easy to conclude that Alec had an awful life with his parents.


Alec and Jerry had many great times together. They both shared a love of horses and planned to set up a riding school in the future. They would meet every day and spend time at the lake. They enjoyed wrestling and riding the horses.

Alec had his first drink with Jerry and learned many things from him that his privileged background would not have allowed him to learn.

Even when the men went to war and were separated by class and rank, they still managed to have some fun together. They went away from the camp and rode horses.


I can understand why Alec shot Jerry. He knew he was going to be shot for desertion anyway. Major Glendinning had ordered that Alec would lead the firing squad that would execute him.

Alec knew there was no way his death could be avoided. He also knew Jerry would hate to be killed by the British. When he visited him, Jerry said that the waiting was the worst thing about being killed.

Alec decided to get his friend to relax and sing songs. Whilst he was doing this, Alec gave him a dignified death. His death was inevitable and this was a much more humane death. For these reasons, I totally understand why Alec shot Jerry.