How Many Miles to Babylon?

Describe Alecs journey and discuss the valuable insight or lessons that you gained through the study of the theme of the journey?

The novel how many miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnson highlights Alec Moore’s tragic journey. We see his journey true childhood to adulthood. Interestingly, the novel begins at the end of Alec’s journey as he waits execution “because I am no officer & a gentlemen they have given me my notebook, ink, pen, paper” and comes full circle.

Immediately we wonder how Alec someone so high up in the war is being executed, then as we read on we begin to realise how his journey through life has left him isolated and cold, returning to his prison cell at the close of the novel. Despite Alec’s privileged background or rather because of it, I now realise that the heart breaking ending was inevitable.

Having studied the protagonists journey I have gained many insights into how isolated children can be despite having a privileged background, isolation and control his mother had over him was a major obstacle, with the support of friendship obstacles can seem meaningless, psychology and Alec’s coping strategies, the impact the journey had on the protagonist and how people dealt with the trauma of war differently.

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Alec led a very controlled and confined life due to his mothers control and rein over him. Throughout the novel we see how Alec’s mother has very little love for him which makes Alec the way he is, Alec has a dysfunctional family and a cruel cold hearted mother who shows no sense of motherly love towards him.

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He grew up as a lonely young boy “As a child I was alone… I was isolated from surrounding children of my own age”. Alec once said “if I were to be born again I would choose to be a rook.

They lead such joyful, public lives” unlike him, from this we can note that Alec is very unhappy in his life. Despite Alecs privileged life with no shortage of material goods he was deprived love and compassion from his mother. His parents were only together for appearances and status. We know this from when Alec says “My father’s face would show little emotion”. The insight I gained from send him to this was that “money really cannot buy you happiness”.

During the novel we see how isolation plays a major obstacle in Alec’s journey. Alec wasn’t allowed go to school “he is delicate, Frederick my dear” From this quote it is clear how controlled Alec is by Alicia and the power she has over her so, she isolates him. As we know his mother controlled his life and had a big influence on his journey. Alec was cut off socially in many aspects. Alicia was not happy about him making friends this is clear when she sends Europe to stop his friendship with Frederick. In her eyes it is an “unsuitable relationship”.

Alec’s mother Alicia had a powerful upper hand over her son. Whatever she wanted was done. Her orders were obeyed. It wasn’t until the end of the novel that we see Alec trying to get back at his mother which costs him his own life. Alec went to war because his mother wanted him to “I want you to go for all the right reasons as well as a few of the wrong ones”. From this we can note that Alicia has the last say in everything and is the decision maker. She forced Alec to go to war just so she could boast to her women friends over lunch about having a son in the war. But that didn’t work out as well as planned as Alec deliberately orchestrated his own execution. Therefore Alicia couldn’t gloat about her son being off at war and most certainly couldn’t tell them how he died as this was something to be ashamed of in her eyes.

The power of friendship between Jerry and Alec helped the protagonist through his journey. The insight I gained from this was friendship is vital, it can help you through some of the hardest things in life and we see this at first hand in the novel “How Many Miles”. Alec for the first time experienced love; he had never experienced this emotion before up to this point he was a very emotionless character.

Alec and Jerry were so in sync and understood each other so well “the beating of our hearts was like the cracking wings of a swan”. Jerry and Alec were like “tweedledum and tweedledee”. They both were extremely close and very innocent “ever had a sup before?’ I considered my chances of getting away with a lie and then shook my head”, “I’d of thought you’d have been with a girl”. From this we can take that both of these characters were very innocent and open with each other, they have great trust in one another and can confide in each other.

Their friendship was the only thing Alec had; they never let each other down and always supported one another. From my reading of the novel I learnt that Alec and Jerry always had each other’s backs “of course I’ll speak for you but my voice is not very loud”. From this quote it certifies that my above statement is true. With the support of Jerry on Alec’s journey, his obstacles of isolation, Alicia, Glendenning, no father figure and his Anglo/Irish class all seem meaningless and in ways we can see Alec’s life improve after he befriends Jerry. I gained a very valuable insight that friendship is vital in every walk of life and it really can make problems seem meaningless when you feel you have someone else on your side willing to take the fall with you.

I learnt a very valuable lesson on psychology trough out this novel. From the very beginning right up until the end we see how twisted and devious Alicia is. She is willing to put her only child’s life at risk by forcing him off to war, his opinion does not matter. The way Alicia’s mind functions is very interesting. I personally was engrossed with Alicia’s character. I had never even considered the fact that one’s mother could have such a negative influence on her own child’s life especially in these circumstances where Alec’s mother present and the wealthy background they had. Alicia also intentionally sets out to upset her child when she drops the bomb shell “Perhaps he were not your father”. This really helps me understand how crafty and devious Alec’s mother is. I had never even anticipated how cruel a mother could be to her own flesh and blood. She was so blunt and carefree.

I also found it tantalizing on how Alec evoked his mother. He obeyed her wish about going to war but purposely left early so Alicia could not celebrate his departure with the neighbours like she had planned. Also how Alec did not write to his mother at the start, he rejected his mother. Alec also made sure that Alicia did not get her way at the very end when he orchestrated his own execution. He felt he had no more reason to live, nothing worth to live for “I love no living person”. This really emphasises how Alec did not have any love for his mother. I learnt a valuable lesson on psychology and an insight into how Alec and Alicia feel about each other. How their relationship is not a usual mother/son type. Alec dealt with issues in his life a very different way than most, he would try his utmost best to ignore the problem and forget it even happened.

Alec was like a child in the way he dealt with his problems; he didn’t stand up and face the face problem head on like most men. The title “How Many Miles to Babylon” is a perfect example of this; it is a nursery rhyme which hints to us that Alec is not very mature with his coping strategies. He also uses escapism as a way to block out the real issue, a perfect example of this is his plan to open up a riding school with Jerry. Which he knows deep down is not going to happen but forces himself to believe so. He focuses on the physical pain of war not the reality of it. Alec’s journey had a major impact on him. Throughout the novel we can see Alec’s character grow and mature. We see Alec connect with emotions we didn’t think he had for example he felt love for the first time, we know this from when Alec says after Jerry has died “ I love no living thing”.

From this we can note that Alec had deep feelings for Alec as a friend, he loved him like a brother. Alec journey makes him more of life, he led a very secured and protected up bringing he did not know the evil of this world they lived in. In ways going to war helped him understand and get a better grasp of life. Alec’s journey also allows him to open up more. We see this mainly with Jerry they express feelings and thoughts to each other. As i mentioned above we saw him love and care for another human being but we also saw him express anger “ I picked up the poker and beat at the fire”. All in all this journey had a major affect on Alec in numerous aspects, but i got an insight into how it allowed him to connect with his feelings and allowed him to open up more.

In conclusion, after studying this novel I gained an insight into many different aspects of Alec’s life which I would never have considered before, I learnt how Jerry assisted Alec on his journey and that with a friendship like that you get the feeling like you are in control and nothing can stop you. I also learnt a lot about how Alec and Alicia feel about each other after reading more into the novel.

Cite this page

How Many Miles to Babylon?. (2016, Nov 30). Retrieved from

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