The Breaking Point

“It was so subtle, I don’t think anyone even noticed, but suddenly you had a room full of military professionals, each one with decades of combat experience and more academic training than the average civilian brain surgeon, and all of us speaking opening, and honestly, about the possible threat of walking corpses. It was like… a dam breaking; the taboo was shattered, and the truth just started flooding out. It was… liberating.” (Brooks 50-51)

In many instances, characters may express confidence as a mask, when in reality they are insecure and face unrelenting turmoil inwardly. We as the audience, viewer, or reader may also be seeking for the illusion of confidence rather than true confidence itself. Although Travis D’Ambrosia holds the position of Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, the interviewer notes that “there is a softness to the general’s voice, a sadness. Throughout [their] interview, he struggles to maintain eye contact.” (Brooks, 50)

This passage displays the vulnerability of American exceptionalism and also how national leaders are not willing to publicize, let alone accept, the realities of their inadequacies. The passage paints a negative image of corporatism and the economic system of America. As the government becomes a bystander to Wall Street and large firms, it becomes useless in addressing the social inequality faced by the powerless and disadvantaged.

In this passage, Brooks purposefully uses contractions and oxymorons, such as a “dam breaking” and “walking corpses” in order to create an unsettling sensation for the reader. Initially, the reader would feel confident in the abilities of the military professionals through mentioning of how the experience of these officers exceed “brain surgeons,” but the two pauses that Travis makes creates an aura feeling of uncertainty and fear around the speaker, as if the government was trying to hide all the true data and figures to themselves and unable to face reality. The tone of the passage is initially humorous, but eventually reaches a serious and even deadening atmosphere. The shorter phrases at the end of the passage convey Travis’ hesitation, disbelief, and doubt concerning the actions of his government.


Military officers gather around a conference table in deliberations. Photo Credit: Mrs. Debra Preitkis (JFHQNCR/MDW)

Brooks employs the metaphor of a rushing tide against and a dam breaking. The truth is presented as the gushing water, and the dam is made by the government in order to keep the truth from its civilians. However, tension is inevitably built up against this barrier, and eventually the government is forced to succumb to the prevailing force of the truth. Brooks uses violent verbs such as “breaking,” “shattered,” and “flooding” in order to convey the damage the government has done by erecting a barrier of the truth. This is a picture of the government’s use of censorship to control the actions and even the thoughts of the masses. Through creating a barrier of the truth, the government also creates a taboo, which represents the illusion made for civilians to assimilate into their minds.


Painting of a dam breaking made by artist Eric Holmlund.

For the most part, we believe truth to be a positive concept, but in this passage, truth is seen as a “flooding” force, that wrecks havoc on every piece of land it comes across. Brooks characterizes truth as a blunt force and able to send society into a downward spiral of mayhem. Just as the “dam breaking” implies that it was not consented, the government obviously also did not intend for their censorship of the plague to cease.

This passage paints a picture of the dominance of Wall Street and other powerful interest groups in America’s economic system, and also the indecision, apathy, and failure of government in protecting its disadvantaged and marginalized populations.


Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006. Print.

“The Economic System of Corporatism.” The Economic System of Corporatism. San José State University Department of Economics, n.d. Web. 13 Sept 2016,


Preitkis, Debra” Col. Robert G. Oltman, commander of the Security Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, discusses trends and issues at the Joint Law Enforcement Conference at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Found, U.S. Army, 13 Sept. 2016,


Holmlund, Eric. Dam Breaking. N.d. N.P, Found, Eric Holmlund, 13 Sept. 16,


One thought on “The Breaking Point

  1. Why do you think that Travis viewed the “dam breaking” as liberating? I find your analysis of this passage to be quite thought provoking in that you are able to identify the economic ties/metaphorical implications within the excerpt. Do you think that if the government had told the truth earlier about the zombies that the flood wouldn’t have happened? Or would have it been less severe, or even had no effect?

    Also, I’m quite impressed by the pictures you have chosen and the accompanying citations. I think that the picture of the dam in particular is able to give me a better image of what is going on in the excerpt.


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