“[Sharon’s voice suddenly simulates the sound of something large braking, a deep phlegm-filled rumble from the bottom of her throat.] ‘They’re coming in! Shoot ‘em, shoot ‘em!’ [She makes the sound of gunfire then…] ‘I won’t let them get you, I won’t let them get you.’ [Sharon suddenly looks away, over my shoulder to something that isn’t there.] ‘The children! Don’t let them get the children!’ That was Mrs. Cormode. ‘Save the children! Save the children!’ [Sharon makes more gunshots. She balls her hands into a large double fist, bringing it down hard on an invisible form.] Now the kids started crying. (75).
In the passage, Sharon, a woman who now lives in a rehabilitation center for “feral children,” recalls the story of her encounter with the living dead. Initially described as a person of rudimentary language and thinking, Sharon recounts her story with great ease.
The passage is marked by a dichotomy of tone between Sharon’s recounting of dialogue and the narrator’s clinical, explanatory tone. This juxtaposition further emphasizes Sharon’s frantic dialogue as she recalls the horrific events she has witnessed. Both methods of storytelling are connected in their use of simple syntax. Sharon’s simple syntax is also coupled with her repetition of phrases (“Shoot ‘em! Shoot ‘em!… Save the children! Save the children!”) as well as simpler, colloquial diction. There is no definitive reason why Sharon’s recalling of dialogue utilizes these – it could be a reflection of her limited cognitive ability, an accurate recalling of dialogue in a terrifying time, or a mixture of the two.
Sharon’s limited cognitive abilities bring into question a variety of other issues, such as: How reliable is she as a narrator? What brought about these injuries to her language and thought processes? Did she sustain such injuries before the Zombie War or because of her experiences during that time?
Initially introduced in a dismissive manner, Sharon recalls her experience with seemingly impressive ability. She describes the episode in an almost possessed sense, taken out of the moment. The narrator notes that she looks, “over [his] shoulder to something that isn’t there.” Sharon has a remarkable narrative talent to bring the reader back to the past as she retells her story. Furthermore, she has an almost unsettling ability to imitate a variety of voices with supposedly impressive accuracy, and create noises based on the setting she describes, with “a deep, phlegm-filled rumble from the bottom of her throat.”
Her talents do not make sense in light of her supposed cognitive deficiencies. Sharon is supposed to have a rudimentary sense of language, yet she is able to weave a detailed image of her experience. What she is not able to communicate through language, she is able to shrewdly supplement with imitations of accents and sounds. Such noises give off the impression to the reader that the event itself has possessed her.
Sharon’s purpose as a whole is to allow for the narrator to break his/her typical structure of the book, which has been thus far to have those he/she interviews recall and reflect on past events. Sharon’s vivid descriptions, however accurate, are the closest that the narrator can get in his/her oral history structure to a more “typical” narration of events, wherein the reader is transported back to the time of the scene.