Though I’d like to (and I will) get into the actual content of the book, Zone One by Colson Whitehead soon (seriously, I’m really liking it so far), I’d like to briefly discuss something that caught my eye in the first few pages of the novel.
“He was their typical, he was their most, he was their average.” “He staked out the B or the B chose him: it was his native land, and in high school and college he did not stray over the county line…” “… He was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked. He sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb.” “His aptitude lay in the well-execute muddle, never shining, never flunking…” (Page 11)
In this almost page-long description, our writer Colson Whitehead clearly wants his audience to know one thing: Mark Spitz (our main character) is absolutely average, both academically and socially. He’s not a top-notch intellectual or socialite, but he’s certainly not a recluse either. He’s just, average. But this quality is precisely what allows him to survive a zombie outbreak and fight-on in the aftermath.
Doesn’t the media often paint a scene where the absolute smartest of the smartest and the boldest survive crazy, life threatening situations like this? Don’t we sometimes associate this type of survival with sharp, quick critical thinking and high intelligence? I know, sometimes my friends and I joke about which one of us would survive in an apocalypse and one of them always says, “It would be me,” hinting at his quick-on-his-feet thinking and the fact that he thinks his intelligence and his ability to survive in the wild somehow transcends all. “It’s survival of the fittest,” he says.
In an interview Colson Whitehead did with NPR a couple of years ago, he tells us, “In the apocalypse, I think those average, mediocre folks are the ones who are going to live.” “I think the A-pluses will probably snuff themselves. The C-minus personalities will probably be killed off very quickly.”
I personally think think high intelligence and quick thinking aren’t necessarily the qualities one needs to survive, at there is certainly more than what we see on the surface. Mark Spitz is just your average Joe, but within just a few pages he shows us that he is an incredible hero. And he doesn’t need loaded knowledge to prove it. To digress for a moment, remember Clay’s Ark? Doctor Blake Maslin is convinced he knows best because he is a highly intelligent doctor, and he thinks he will be able to figure out this infectious disease that has taken over. But in the end, he can’t. He isn’t the saving grace.
Though it seems almost like a silly question to ask, what do you guys think? Who would actually survive an apocalypse? What does it take?