Before we even started to read Zone One by Colson Whitehead, I had a negatively biased opinion about the book. Personally, I’m not a fan of the zombie apocalyptic genre, so I assumed that I wouldn’t enjoy reading this. All I know about the living dead is that their main goal in “life” is to satisfy their hunger by eating brains or flesh. When I first started to read the book, I honestly hated it and it wasn’t because of the zombies (shocking)! Fortunately like the other books we’ve read in class, I’ve learned to appreciate the literature for the message it was trying to evoke.
At first, I didn’t like Whitehead’s writing because he used complex wording for an Armageddon-metropolis setting. I thought that he was trying to confuse the audience by arrogantly showing off his superior intellect. Another thing that I didn’t comprehend was the two categories of zombies. One groups, the Skels, were mobile zombies that roamed freely throughout the streets of New York City and beyond. The other group, the Stragglers, were zombies that are stationary behind office desks or trapped in a gorilla suit of all places. I read this article that expressed the same confusion as I did. In this article, the author questioned “But if they [stragglers] are hungry why can they live for years sequestered in New York offices? Hunger is a symptom of a vital need. What is the point of their eating if they can live for years without sustenance?” Like I said before, I don’t understand the significance of zombies and the fear they’re suppose to afflict onto the living. What I do know is that the undead is suppose to eat people to survive. However, as I finished reading the book, I realized the Whitehead was trying to portray a bigger picture than what a straggler has for dinner.
In class, we had our daily group discussions. As usual, I tend to learn new information and see things from other people’s perspective. which can help me with my own personal questions. This recent discussion revolved around the complexity of the vocabulary used in Zone One (Sarah’s post was great in explaining this as well). Not only did going over these new words help build our vocabulary, it also made me consider the complexity of the situation the book’s characters are living in. Whitehead didn’t just want to show off his writing skills (or maybe he did, who knows), he wanted the audience to realize how difficult it would be to live in a disease-ridden world where your loved ones are dead and you have to constantly fight to survive the plague.
This brings me to my next point, the anthropomorphism of zombies. It never crossed my mind that the living dead were once people before they were infected. I just viewed them as the monsters society painted them out to be. Of course it ‘s difficult for Mark Spitz to kill skels/stragglers because he too realizes that the living dead were once living. That’s why Mark Spitz, Gary, and Kaitlyn play the game “Solve the Straggler” because they are aware that the zombies did have a life before Last Night happened and before they were trapped in cubicle limbo for all of eternity (i.e. Ned the Copy Boy, pages 80-84). By creating a story for the vacant corpses helps to humanize the zombies and bring life back into an environment where so much has perished.
Overall, I did end up enjoying Zone One because it made me consider the depth of a situation like this. How one minute you could be celebrating your birthday with loved ones at a fancy restaurant and the next you celebrate your birthday with a MRE at a survivor camp. The author made another important point about disease not discriminating when it chooses to infect a host. All that matters is being able to build up and create a better world for those who survived and remembering those that were lost.