Red “Surprise”

“The sky was red that day. All the smoke, the crap that’d been filling the air all summer. It put everything in an amber red light, like looking at the world through hell-colored glasses. That’s how I first saw Yonkers, this little, depressed, rust-collar burb just north of New York City. I don’t think anybody ever heard of it. I sure as hell hadn’t, and now it’s up there with, like, Pearl Harbor…no, not Pearl…that was a surprise attack. This was more like Little Bighorn, where we…well…at least the people in charge, they knew what was up, or they should have. The point is, it wasn’t a surprise, the war…or emergency, or whatever you want to call it…it was already on. It had been, what, three months since everyone jumped on the panic train.” (93)


In this passage, Todd Wainio illustrates the initial setting and thoughts in regards to the “Great Panic.” In particular, this passage begins to illustrate and foreshadow the horrors that are about to come before the soldiers in the war. Brooks does this through the use of diction, imagery, and figurative language.

For example, through diction and imagery, Brooks is able to highlight the beginnings of the battle with the undead. For example, Todd paints an image of red in many of the initial sentences in phrases such as “amber red light” and “hell-colored glasses”. As red is reminiscent of blood and violence, Todd is further setting the scene of that war that is upon them. The color red could also be emphasizing the aggression and anger that the soldiers are feeling which is further described later on in the interview (ie. not being able to go up on the roof tops even though tactically it would be a better choice).

In addition to the use of red, Todd also refers to the war as a “panic train.” There have been so many mistakes in regards to this zombie war made by so many to the point that people are simply there for the ride whether they like it or not. Also, by using the “panic” to describe the train creates an atmosphere of uncertainty. When people are not very sure of their situation, they may go into a state of panic as they feel that they are inadequately prepared. Similarly, when the soldiers are being sent into the middle of this war, there are many unknowns that they aren’t able to properly prepare for although it has already been three months from the beginning of the panic. Even with a quarter of the year passing by, there is still much that needs to be done.


Furthermore, Brooks’s use of repetition and syntax demonstrates the horrors of the war. For example, in the second sentence of the excerpt, Todd repeats “hell”. With this emphasis on hell, Todd places the soldiers in an environment in which there is no escape. Whether or not the soldiers die of natural causes or become reanimated, there is no true escape. They are going to be thrown into a battlefield full of reanimated zombies which only produce chaos and death. In addition, the use of ellipses creates breaks in the storytelling which further creates a sense of doubt and uncertainty. Todd needs to take a break in between his statements to make adjustments and clarifications upon his previous statements. This illustrates the inadequacy to do what needs to be done.


Thus, through the use of literary devices and figurative language, Brooks demonstrates the upcoming and ongoing battles of the war of the undead versus the living.


One thought on “Red “Surprise”

  1. Hi Emily,

    I also noticed the phrase “hell-colored glasses” as I was reading; this phrase reminded me of the saying “viewing the world through rose-colored glasses,” which characterizes a person with excessive optimism. Here, however, it’s the exact opposite. People see everything through the lens of hell, which reflects the trauma the Great Panic has inflicted.

    In addition, I liked your point about the “panic train” because this metaphor definitely captures the desperation of the situation; people board the train (similar to the saying “jumping on the bandwagon”) not knowing where their destination or whether there even is a destination. You also discussed how the “panic train” applies to the soldiers who are “being sent into the middle of this war”—I thought this was interesting because it implies that soldiers are pawns of those in power, able to be directed or dispatched at whim. The soldiers unwittingly board the “panic train” because they are trapped not only in their own fear, but also in the fear of those around them. This creates the “hell” that you talk about in your third body paragraph. Ultimately, the situation that World War Z presents persists because of the fear and panic circulating among the population.


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