Author: Reilly Liberto

Zone One & Morality

As I read Zone One and learn more about the Stragglers, I am faced with the morality of killing them. There are three groups in this novel; the humans, the Stragglers, and the Skels. The Skels are the zombies who act against the human population, searching for any bit of flesh they can sink their rotted teeth into. The humans are the remaining bit of the species that have yet to be infected by the plague, fighting to survive the hunt of the Skels. Finally, there are the Stragglers, who aren’t alive, but they don’t show the hunger for flesh like the Skels. Instead, they are seen standing amongst store aisles or sitting on park benches, unmoving and unaffected by the world around them. Like animals looking for a final resting place, Stragglers choose the places they linger because that specific room or restaurant might have been associated with comfort in their previous lives. They don’t have prey to hunt or predators to fight off, instead they rot in their own worlds captured by a freeze-frame of a memory, so they’re just sort of there.

I am constantly uneasy every time I read about the deforming or defacing of Stragglers, which appears to be Whitehead’s intention. By giving them the habit of lingering where they’re comfortable, Whitehead humanizes them and makes us face the question of if it is okay to kill something that is doing no harm. I believe that it is, without a doubt, necessary to kill the Stragglers; the city must be cleared for new inhabitants and there is also a sort of mercy in releasing the Stragglers from the illusion of death. Each character in Mark Spitz’s unit deals with the killing of previous humans, Stragglers and Skels alike, by placing the negative or less appealing variety of human to them. For Gary, there were those who were able to conform to society’s rules in the way he couldn’t. For Kaitlyn they were the opposite, those who strayed from the order she lived her own life by. For Mark, they all possessed the same mediocrity he saw in himself, “Middling talents who got by, barnacles on humanity’s hull, survivors who had not yet been extinguished.” (Whitehead 267) It is the only way for them to find comfort in killing, by giving themselves the false sense of ridding the new world of the blemishes of the old.

As discussed in Ashley’s blog post, Humanity in Death, and Taha’s blog post, Rest in Peace, Mark believes he is releasing the undead from their toil between life and death, but I believe what ultimately helps him to be able to pull the trigger is the illusion he paints for himself.

What Is Hobbling?

Blake, in Clay’s Ark, finds his daughters and self captured by the car family in Present 22. He awakes in a dark room to find himself restrained by plastic cuffs and fears he may be “hobbled” (page 575). While reading this, I was unaware hobbling meant, so I did a little research in case others had never heard of the term before this book.

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Acknowledging Death


Death is a common occurrence: it happens every day, every person will have to deal with the death of someone they know and, at some point, death will  happen to every person on earth. In Zulus, Sue Kabnis asks Alice Achitophel to report any patients that have died as she makes her rounds to collect urine and pills. During her daily routine,  Alice makes an observation, “She dumped the medicines into the drawer held open by Sue Kabnis, as she did before, and left to go home with a stomach that was upset, tossing bile, because she had been asked to actually witness the dying, to acknowledge, to make it real by reporting it.” (page 203) Alice is forced  to face the fact that people die more frequently than she’d like to believe. Read more

The Unnamed Dead

Chapter five of Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid opens with a description of the disappearance of Casper Yeagin, whose body was donated to the Howard University Medical School for anatomical dissection (as later discovered by his niece). Yeagin had no personal possessions when admitted to the Howard University Hospital, causing him to be registered as John Doe. His John Doe tag resulted in no one stepping forward to claim his body post mortem. Washington refers to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968, allowing unidentified or unclaimed bodies to be donated to medical schools.  The idea that an unidentified body could be donated to a medical school is unfamiliar and surprising to me. While I understand this Act allows for a way to dispose of bodies without them going to “waste”, it led me back to Monday’s class discussion on the display of Fortune’s bones in a museum and if that is truly what Fortune would have wanted for his body. Read more