The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

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What is the purpose of the men's meeting? Why does the author compare the unwrapping of the book bundle to a ceremonial rite?

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The point of the story is that civilization has been destroyed by an atomic war and the few cultural artifacts the old man named Doctor Jenkins has managed to save are priceless treasures. Once they are worn out, there will be nothing at all left of civilization. The story is intended to remind readers of their cultural riches and of the growing danger of losing them. All that is left, as far as these men know, are four books and a dozen old-fashioned vinyl 33-rpm phonograph records. Portable phonographs such as the one treasured by Dr. Jenkins were very common at the time the story was published. They did not need electricity but had to be wound up so that the turntable would be activated by the unwinding spring just long enough to play one or two records. That kind of record-player was essential because there was of course no electricity anymore. The books are a complete Shakespeare, the Bible, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Dante's entireĀ Divine Comedy . Evidently Doctor Jenkins...

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