During my time in ENGL 101 with Dr. Beth McCoy, I have had an eye-opening experience with the reading she has assigned, especially with the novel Zone One by Colson Whitehead. I’ve expressed, even a few classmates expressed the difficulty of the book. Zone One takes place over the course of three days; people throughout the novel are infected by a virus that turns them into zombies, which can be transmitted by scratch or a bite. Also, the main character Mark Spitz becomes a volunteer to take care of the leftover and so-called “less harmful” zombies called “skels.” The reason why this novel is difficult to grasp as a reader is due to the context and organization of the story. While the book is primarily told in real-time, Whitehead has Mark Spitz go through these random flashbacks throughout his time in reality. As a reader, that’s confusing for me to decipher between reality and the past, which leads to context. If I am already confused about reality and time, how will I fully grasp the plot and meaning behind the reading?
But recently, I was able to grasp an idea of the true meaning of Zone One. In the blog post, “The Pressing Problem of American Income Inequality: An Analysis of Zone One and the Washington Post” by Jack Mckeown, which connects Zone One and The Washington Post article “The Painful Truth about Teeth” by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. In the blog post, Mckeown notes both readings demonstrate the social tensions in American society induced by economic inequality. With the Washington Post, Mckeown analyzes how Jordan and Sullivan focus on a working-class American citizen Dee Matello. Matello visited the free dental clinic in the Wicomico Civic Center with a thousand other people due to the lack of insurance from an employer or government aid, as well as the expensiveness of dental care. Matello expresses how there is a great divide between the upper class and the lower class Americans. “The country is way too divided between well-off people and people struggling for everything — even to see the dentist,” she said. “And the worst part is, I don’t see a bridge to cross over to be one of those rich people.” If the working class has no opportunities to have to progress economically, that starts the issues between social classes. Mckeown’s expresses that “The article additionally notes the complexities inherent in the American rich-poor divide. The pervasiveness of the U.S. hegemonic socioeconomic ideology that values the affluent over the working-class has influenced the economically disadvantaged to hierarchize one another.” He uses the example within the article “If I see someone with perfect teeth, I think, ‘Oh, man, they’re out of my league,’ ” Matello said. “Us poor people ‘status’ each other. We’re like, ‘Ah, dude, you don’t have any teeth!’ Or if you see someone with little jagged yellow stubs, you think, ‘Oh, man, you have lived here your whole life, haven’t you?’ ” Overall, when looking at the examples of The Washington Post and Mckeown’s analyzation of the article, there is a clear example of The U.S wage gap, which leads to the social divide within the country.
The Washington Post and Mckeown’s thoughts lead to the connection with Zone One and Whitehead’s purpose of the story. Mckeown uses the characters, Gary and Kaitlyn, to show the socioeconomic ideology that is portrayed in the article. Within the novel, Gary comes from an unprivileged background before the plague. With that being said, when he had to eliminate the skels, he visualizes them as the upper class and channeling his resentment toward them. Mckeown uses the example “They were the proper citizens who had stymied and condemned him and his brothers all his life, excluding them from the festivities…Where were they now, their judgments, condescending smiles?”. Saying even with this new world of equality there past life still affects their feelings toward the ones who are privileged. On the other hand, Kaitlyn, who is a “well-to-do college survivors,” envisions the skels as people who are inferior to her, stereotypically visioning them as the economically less fortunate. “She aimed at the rabble who nibbled at the edge of her dream: the weak-willed smokers, deadbeat dads and welfare cheats, single moms incessantly breeding…and those who only had themselves to blame for their ridiculous credit-card debt.” Both characters note that the economic disparity that was created between the groups of Americans lasted beyond the crisis.
Furthermore, using “The Pressing Problem of American Income Inequality: An Analysis of Zone One and the Washington Post” by Jack Mckeown to bridge a gap between Zone One by Colson Whitehead and Washington Post “The Painful Truth about Teeth” by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, there is a clear indication of the economic gap between classes, which affects how the classes socially interact with one another. I realized that not only there an issue between the working class and upper class, but there are also socio-economic issues between African Americans and White Americans. In the film Letter to the President (2005), many African American artists, politicians, and journalists speak on the period of Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush and how drugs were implemented and impacted the black community. The film expresses that crack cocaine and weaponry were implemented by the Nicaraguan drug rebels that were assisted by the U.S government. In many ways for African Americans, this was their only source of income and some only way to escape reality and hardships. With cocaine becoming one of the primary sources of income for black people, it begins the increased arrest rate for the possession of drugs. But the main concern was, why was the majority arrested and pulled over African American? Racial profiling. U.S Police would make any excuses to pull over someone of African descent if the profile is even remotely close. In some cases, police would accuse someone of being a drug dealer if you matched these ceratin requirements:
-Map in the car with a destination circled on it.
-Fabric softener in the car, trying to mask the smell of the drug.
-Fast food wrappers on the floor, meaning the person doesn’t stop, they only ate in the car, “afraid to leave the drug load.”
-High pulse rate, if someone had a high pulse rate it was because they were afraid or nervous of the cops finding the drug load in the car.
-Black or Hispanic.
With this operation going on, this gave police the legal right to search one’s car, even though this is illegal. It is the idea that because of slavery and other factors apart from American history, African Americans did not have the opportunities as others. Due to the lack of opportunities leads to drug use and drug dealing as their only way of income, even when some who don’t participate in those illegal activities will still get accused because of their skin color.
With the Washington Post, Jack Mckeown ’s Blog Post and the film Letter to the President gave me a reader who is struggling with the context of Zone One, realize that there may be more behind Whitehead’s story. That the silver lining is the social and economic difference between people in the same country. In the Washington Post, one is judged on how their teeth appear and directly associates it with their financial wealth. Mckeown makes a note of that in Zone One with Gary and Kaitlyn’s perceptions of skels. Overall I realized when society moves on and becomes equal; the past will always infringe on one’s decision. That someone’s background creates that person’s outlook on life and people. And that one will not always have the same opportunities, treatment, and stability as others. That sometimes you have to “Fuck it… and walk into the sea of the dead”.