Abel Opens the Gates

In this class, we see that there are multiple crosswalks among disciplines and the pieces of literature we read, such as ideas relating to consent, medical malpractice, and racism. Not surprisingly, I also see a connection between Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One among the literature read in class, as well as texts read outside of it.

The name Abel struck some inner part of me because I knew the name. I had heard it before, and it isn’t one that I hear frequently. After scrolling around the internet for a few minutes, I stumbled upon the story of Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Reminiscent of my early Sunday School days, I carried the name Abel in the back of my brain with me, and I’m not sure why. I haven’t considered myself religious since I was 15.

This led me to wonder if there was any type of connection between Abel from the Book of Genesis, and Abel from Zone One. According to the biblical story, Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve, and they both made sacrifices to God. Cain tilled the soil and Abel was a shepherd, and for a reason that is never mentioned in the text. Cain murders Abel out of jealousy, and is banished to the land of Nod, where no man can kill him and he is condemned to a life of wandering.

In Zone One, Abel says, “What right do we have to laugh and carol and play Texas hold ‘em while the rest of the world suffered its just punishment?” He notifies the camp that he has opened the gates shortly thereafter. While I’m not sure there is a direct connection between the texts, it reminds me of the life of wandering to which Cain is condemned. There is no point, really, in Cain’s wandering. It’s aimless and there’s no upward mobility–he will live forever anyways.

In Zone One, Abel seems to be making the same point. What is the purpose of living when there are no goals or opportunities to move up in the world? Is killing stragglers and skels in order to live a quiet life a sufficient compensation for all of the violent work?

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