Throughout this course, I have had access to a wide range of tools and resources, all of which have helped me to develop my understanding, thinking and grow as a student. Reinforcement of learning and reviewing course material aids in enhancing comprehension and memory of topics and ideas. Repeated exposure to the same content can strengthen knowledge and increase the likelihood that it will be remembered. As I write this essay, it all makes sense because I learned a lot about violence and tropical storms throughout the semester, which helps to explain why it was so crucial to think critically, pay attention, and double-check all of the documents. This was actually the first time I had a professor emphasize thinking, or in other words, that you must actually do the work in order to succeed.
I was curious about the where, how, and who of fictitious beings that are half dead, half alive as I read Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. So I looked into the origins of zombies and discovered that reanimated corpses are the basis for mythology from Haiti and Africa. These myths claim that zombies are simply humans who have been magically revived and are now in the control of a sorcerer or witch doctor. However, George A. Romero’s 1968 horror film “Night of the Living Dead” is mainly responsible for the way zombies are portrayed in modern culture as monsters that consume human flesh. This film introduced the zombie apocalypse, in which the dead rise from their graves and hunt down living creatures to eat. Since then, zombies have been a staple of horror fiction and have appeared frequently in films, television shows, and video games. The modern zombie is essentially a product of popular culture, despite the fact that its origins may be established in folklore and superstition. The idea of a relentless horde of undead creatures pursuing living humans can be both terrifying and exhilarating, which made me wonder why society idolizes and romanticizes these fictional characters, such as those from The Walking Dead or Vampire Diaries. Escapism, in a world that can often feel overwhelming and unpredictable, the zombie apocalypse represents a complete break from reality. Some people may find comfort in the notion of a world in which everything has crumbled and survival is the only objective. Social issues are another concern for some individuals; in some zombie stories, the living dead serve as a metaphor for problems with consumerism, conformity, and fear of the unknown. In order to remark on broader societal issues, authors and filmmakers often examine these themes through the lens of a zombie apocalypse.
We have explored the ideas of “violence” and “care” in a variety of ways throughout this course. I was unsure whether to agree with Saidiya Hartman’s claim that “care is the antidote to violence” or Davina Ward’s counterclaim that “violence can exist as care” after reading Zone One and understanding what zombies stand for. Based on the various course materials, some things are just very circumstantial. We have discussed the conflicts between violence and care in class by reading, analyzing images, and watching movies about natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy that all go back to course ideas like diaspora, memory, and forgetting.
The story of a survivor of a zombie apocalypse is told in the book “Zone One” as he aids in the removal of infected “stragglers” or “skels” from lower Manhattan, which has been separated into different “zones” for reclamation purposes. The book does a fantastic job of demonstrating the severe trauma and long-lasting effects that catastrophic events and ongoing catastrophes cause. Mark Spitz, the main character, is a former office worker who has been given the responsibility of eliminating the last mass of zombies from the city. As Mark and his team navigate the various zones, they come across a variety of challenges and threats—both from the undead and other humans. Along the way, Mark reflects on his past and his relationships with his fellow survivors. Consumption, conformity, and the struggle for power in a post-apocalyptic society are just a few of the social and political concerns that Whitehead utilizes the zombie apocalypse as a metaphor for throughout the book. I’ve considered the zone between life and death that exists among zombies, which is similar to the zone between land and water that existed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when the levees broke. One interviewee in the film “When the Levees Broke,” which was shown in class and was about the survivors and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said, “The aftermath to me is worse than the actual levees breaking.” There were also times during the evacuation process when it appeared as though the government had no interest in aiding the people who had been impacted by such violence. The premise behind Hartman’s statement that “care is the antidote to violence” is related to this. The New Orleans Morial Convention Center was recommended to a huge number of people who were seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina, according to the documentary. But because of the extreme overpopulation and the lack of food, water, and medical supplies, the situation became even worse. This is an additional illustration of how violence exists as care.
We then looked at photos from Hurricane Sandy, and watching and viewing material like this is raw and sometimes really hard to look at. Our discussions regarding Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina frequently focused on the aftermath, including hearing people’s tales of survival and those they have lost. In the same way that Katrina survivors discussed the long-term physical, psychological, and PTSD impacts of their experience in When the Levees Broke, Zone One describes how trauma extends beyond “last night” stories and permeates a world that has seen tragedy. The recollections of the storm’s victims that the survivors have are comparable to zombie fiction — a life between the living and the dead. A zombie may still have the same physical composition as a person who wishes to continue living a human life, but they are no longer that person. Some storm survivors may have memories of their lost loved ones and be able to see them while also realizing that they are no longer alive. Death is what separates a person’s memory from them; those who survive hold onto those memories.
Additionally, the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy serves as a stark reminder of the devastating power of nature and the value of learning from the mistakes of the past. Millions of people’s lives were interrupted, the storm cost billions of dollars in damage, and many lives were lost. Many initiatives were made to strengthen communities after the storm in order to better prepare them for future storms. In this regard, Hurricane Sandy stands for the necessity of reflecting on the past in order to plan for the future.
It was challenging to think through the tension created by both Hartman and Ward’s assertions. The ongoing discussion, revisiting earlier material and making connections to other works, and being able to hear other people’s ideas and interpretations have all been very beneficial to me. As a student, I am eager to identify new problems in life and learn as much as I can from them. I am grateful that the challenges I have faced in this class have allowed me to grow.