Mark Spitz’s Ark

As I am working on my opening-out essay and revisiting my ideas and notes on Zone One, I came across my note about the use of water-related vocabulary, and how I was wondering about the reason behind why Whitehead decided to incorporate these specific words. I failed to look into it while we were reading the book despite my questions about it, although I did talk about his use of complicated vocabulary in a previous post. Therefore, I decided that I would dive into it a little more now that I can take a step back from the complicated vocabulary as a whole, and focus on the specific use of this themed vocabulary.

As someone who is relatively knowledgable about the Bible, this use of water-related vocabulary seemed to resonate with me, and lead me to wonder if this water theme had to do with the end of humanity, and the world as we know it. In the Bible, Genesis 6:5-13 talks about how God sees how corrupted and violent the people he created had become, and therefore he decides to completely wipe out the entire population and recreate them. He chooses one man, Noah, to live and help preserve the wildlife on an ark during the population wipe out because he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9). God decides to “bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish” (Genesis 6:17). This flood I believe is something that Whitehead could be referencing with his use of water-related words such as “antediluvian”, “hydroponics”, and especially the last sentences of the book that read “You have to learn how to swim sometime. He opened the door and walked into the sea of the dead” (322).

I believe in the sense of this novel, the “flood” happening is in fact a zombie apocalypse and the story can be tied into tellings from the Bible. There is even a line that reads “…they visualized the hand rankings from their poker bibles…” (Whitehead, 81). In terms of this theory about the water themes alluding to the Bible and the flood, the zombie apocalypse could be God’s way of wiping out the corruption and violence that mankind has developed into, and is ensuring this time that those who survive are the ones like Noah. In this case, Mark Spitz in a sense is Noah. He follows all the rules that those of power command him, and he never really tries to be above average, just to get by doing the right things. He is chosen by God to build an ark, and only he, his family, and specific species of animals were who would live through this destruction. The name Mark Spitz also applies to this theory, because Mark Spitz was an olympic level swimmer, therefore he would be able to survive any flood by swimming, in this case of the dead.

Although this is only a theory, I would be very interested to know if this was actually an intention of Whitehead when writing this novel. It seems to have a lot of supporting things hidden away in the book, and I would be interested to learn about if there are more theories related to this.

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