Excused Profanity

[I should have posted this a lot earlier when we were reading Zone One but I kept pushing it off until now. I thought this might help others with their finals papers so I’m uploading it now.]

As someone who is not very interested in the zombie genre, I didn’t exactly look forward to this book; not to say that I didn’t want to read it but I didn’t feel any particular excitement to pick it up. However, I was surprised to see spots of humor throughout the book which really appealed to me. One of my favorite moments is when Mark Spitz approaches the corn crops that the reestablished settlement grew as a food source. As he was tempted to steal one, he heard someone say to “Back away from the fucking corn, dude” (Whitehead, 45). Mark Spitz then responds as having “backed away from the fucking corn” (Whitehead, 46). Despite the obvious profanity, I appreciated this moment as it illustrated a moment of Mark’s character as sassy despite the mundane image he presents himself as. Although he didn’t say it out loud, I appreciated the moment where I could possibly see a little more of Mark’s personality which we otherwise don’t get much of in the book.

I wonder why the author has added such humor into his work. It makes me wonder if this is Whitehead’s way of portraying humans as holding onto their last bit of humanity. Despite the fact that humans are at constant risk of being bitten and becoming a skel, they still have time to sass when interacting with others. Just like how Eli tried to control his appetite of infecting all the humans in the world in Clay’s Ark, Mark Spitz may be trying to hold onto the last bit of humor he is allowed to have as a man living in an apocalyptic world.

It made me realize how even in his novel, the character is trying to hold onto a bit of the past. For example, Mark keeps seeing the faces of the people he knew in the skels that he is trying to kill. I believe it was Professor McCoy who described it as being haunted by the “echoes of the past things coming back to the life” in this world. It’s interesting because it haunts people in different ways. Like for Kaitlyn, she didn’t forget that how she “was elected Secretary of the Student Council twice” (Whitehead, 54). I also laughed at how irrelevant such a statement could be in the world that they currently live in but as I’m writing this, it’s making me realize that this could have just been another way of coping with the changing world for Kaitlyn. She is coping with this new world around her by holding onto her past accomplishments because she enjoys rules and being accomplished so she is trying to do the same even now by looking good in front of the Lieutenant. On page 145, she asks the group that they bump into about the people who were having an impromptu barbecue, ready to write up a report and notify the higher-ups about the individuals who are not completing their jobs.

Although this blog post started off as me appreciating Whitehead’s humor throughout the novel, I realized that this might all just be a way to reflect the remaining humanity within the characters of the book. I think it came off as humor to me because the aspects that were funny to me whilst reading such as Kaitlyn bragging about being student council secretary and Mark Spitz being sassy were so out of place in a zombie novel. Despite the fact that they are on survival mode, they still have aspects of themselves that are human and separate them from the skels that surround them.

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