One of the biggest themes in this class is the human body. Men, women, children, African Americans, and even zombies. Obviously one of the biggest themes was racism as I talked about in my last blog post with all the examples from Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington. However, relating to my last blog post I am still interested in talking about discrimination. After reading Zulus, one of the biggest things I kept thinking about was the discrimination towards women and especially towards Alice Achitophel in this book.
Zulus by Percival Everett is a story about a very large woman living in a post-apocalyptic world. She is judged because of how large she is. In this world all the women are no longer fertile, except for Alice Achitophel. She ends up being raped and becomes pregnant. She decides to go to the rebels, but they only want her because she can reproduce. Next, a very odd thing happens, she just starts rapidly growing and expanding until her body explodes and she is left with a new body. Her new body is a very attractive and skinny woman. Her old body, specifically her head, is still in the hands of the rebels and she can somehow feel and know what is being done around her old head and what the rebels are doing to her.
The first thing I want to talk about is the discrimination that overweight Alice faces. She is shamed for her weight. On page 22 of Zulus it says, “no one looked at her anymore, except to offer that obligatory shake of the head that meant either pity or disgust.” And later this same page says, “the guards gathered around like always to watch the fat woman clear the gate by the narrowest of margins, laughing as her big legs carried her away from them and across the wide lobby to her division.” Something in life that I believe is so morally wrong is to discriminate someone because of how much they weigh or their looks. Why is it okay to laugh at someone because they are bigger than you? These guards act like she is some kind of animal, mocking and laughing at her. Her neighbors and people around her refuse to talk to her and look at her only because of her size.
The second thing I want to talk about is Alice being raped and therefore transforming into a woman that fits into social norms. The way I see her rape is that this man, just like the rest of society, sees her as an embarrassment because she doesn’t look exactly like everyone else. To me the rape is this man forcing her body to start the transformation to look like everyone else. Society is forcing itself on this woman and forcing her to change because they want a perfect society and she is the embarrassment of the society. As she transforms into her knew body, the rebels still have part of her old body. She is still connected to her old body and she cannot get away from it. She is still trapped inside of this body that all of society hated. She cannot break the connection to her old flesh. At the end of the book it seems as though she agrees to a mass suicide to try and get away from her body.
On page 242 Kevin says “Alice, our daughter was dead before she was born… where does a child grow in this world?”. To me this relates to our real world so much. There are all these social norms that people are supposed to fit into. And when someone does not fit into these specific guidelines they are shamed and discriminated against. This remind me of racism in our world as well. In Medical Apartheid there are so many examples of doctors discriminating against African Americans only because of the color of their skin. They are stuck in their bodies that they were born into just like Alice and they are being put down because of this just as Alice was in Zulus. Our world is full of people who are discriminated against for things they cannot change. People have laughed and mocked people just because their skin color is different. African Americans were slaves and were treated worse than animals would have even been treated.
In chapter 9 of Medical Apartheid there is a story about an African American man named Cade, who came into a hospital and instead of the doctors fixing this mans’ broken leg, it says on page 217 “they extracted bone chips, and pulled 15 of his teeth to measure Cade’s newly elevated plutonium levels; only then, 5 days later, did they set his broken bones.” The doctors started injecting him with plutonium and on page 217 it says, “the purpose of the injection had not been to treat Cade’s body, but to experimentally calibrate the plutonium’s physiological devastation.” Cade eventually escaped from the hospital before they could do who knows what else to him.
I think Cade realized what was going on and realized they were treating him like some sort of animal and wanted his life to mean more. Cade just like any other man should not have been treated like this. Why do we discriminate against someone for having a different skin color? And why in Zulus did they discriminate Alice because of her weight? Cade escaped because he didn’t want to live in a world where he was tested on and treated like nothing. Alice tried to escape her world by supporting the mass suicide at the end of the book. Alice realized the world would never change and she would always be connected to her body and she could not escape that discrimination in the world she was in.
Zulus shows me a representation of our own world. We are trapped in our bodies, in this world full of discrimination. If you are not exactly what society wants, then you will be discriminated against. I think this book is showing us that no matter how much we try to escape that world, there will always be racism, discrimination, and people feeling trapped in their own bodies because of society. We cannot escape from our bodies and we cannot escape from this unchanging world.