Cold Imagery and Consent in Zulus

In class we recently discussed Colson Whitehead’s fantastic use of vocabulary in Zone One. Like Whitehead, Percival Everett uses a variety of literary elements to convey his ideas in his novel Zulus. A very prominent element throughout the novel was imagery. Everett uses this element in order to appeal to the reader’s senses and to add depth to the major themes. With imagery, the reader can visualize and feel what the characters are experiencing throughout the novel.


In Zulus, a major theme is consent. From beginning to end, the novel deals with both sexual assault and medical experimentation. Using cold imagery, Everett is able to portray a lack of consent in a way that appeals to the reader’s senses.

In the beginning of the novel, imagery is used to set the scene. The novel starts with a description of the setting. It states ” On a day in November, a cold day with snow and disturbing winds from Canada…eyeing their sleds and the ground just beginning to hold the white flakes complete and fat.” Alice Achitophel then has an interaction with a stranger on her porch. The cold description continues throughout chapter one as she opens the door to talk to the stranger; “She unlocked the door shivering at the now colder wind almost violently for a second as she pushed open the storm door and felt fully the air”. As the chapter progresses, Alice Achitophel invites the stranger into her home, where he rapes her. This cold imagery is seen again as she is being violated. It states, “Alice Achitophel let her head fall to the side, her face flat against the cool linoleum”. All of these quotes help the reader feel discomfort.

Cold imagery is also well portrayed in chapter G when Alice is being violated again. In this chapter, Alice Achitophel is experimented on and examined without her consent. A notable example is on page 89; “The scissors were cold against her flesh and the sniping rang through her body tensing every muscle, making her eyes shut tightly…and they entered there, one, two, three hands at once, ice cold, feeling and poking”. It is evident that the cold imagery corresponds with the lack of consent. Due to Percival Everett’s use of imagery in Zulus, the reader is able to comprehend the feelings that Alice Achitophel is experiencing, although to a lesser degree.



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