One thing I noticed and enjoyed in Zone One was Colson Whitehead’s ability to convey humor amidst the dreariness and dystopia of the apocalypse. He implements humor in his characters through games like “Solve the Straggler” and “Name That Bloodstain!”. This helps counter the more gloomy events of the novel so we aren’t completely overcome with how depressing the story actually is.
One part of the novel I found humorous was the choosing of shoes. Once you get beyond the obvious need for comfortable, durable shoes to be able to hunt down zombies on foot, the idea of commercialism remains, “the sneaker sponsor had manufactured several product lines for different ages, aesthetic appetites, and athletic inclinations.” (Whitehead, page 40) To think that, even though there was a zombie apocalypse happening outside, people still took the time to search for the shoes in their favorite shade of blue made me laugh. It also offered reassurance, “It was comforting, in the recesses of the buildings, to see your buddy’s heel blink from the tiny red LEDs in a novelty running shoe,” (40) providing the comforting idea that humanity still holds the same values it did before the dead started walking.
Often, when reading novels or watching movies/tv about the apocalypse, it’s not uncommon to see humans lose interests they might have held in their previous lives and turn to complete survival-mode. Whitehead shows that while the people in Zone One are focused on survival, they still like to indulge in the luxuries of pre-apocalyptic life. The luxury of owning and donning shoes which match their style, even if it means running through decomposing guts and flesh instead of through the park, humanizes the characters and allows the reader an easier way to relate considering we don’t live in a world torn apart by zombies.
Much like the Stragglers dwell in places that they have found comfort in before death, people in Zone One still look for ways to remember who they were before the apocalypse. A preference in shoes could be a way to help preserve the identity of an individual.