Implications of War

A ‘war’ suggests two conflicting opponents, each with their own tactics, purposes, ammunition and organization. By framing the zombie crisis as a war, Max Brooks humanizes the zombies. If indeed these creatures are the enemy in this war, the reader asks: does this imply that the zombies consciously strategizing how to best attack the humans?

At the Honolulu Conference, one group of the delegates thinks of the zombie crisis as a war. They discuss options in terms of military strategy, explaining, “Time was on our side, not theirs” referring to the popular strategy of waiting out the enemy (266).

This does not mean, however, that all those in power view the zombie crisis as a war. Another group of delegates at the Honolulu Crisis instead views the issue as a disease epidemic, questioning, “What about the later cases, the ones still strong and healthy? Couldn’t just one restart the plague all over again?” (266). Using words such as ‘cases,’ ‘healthy,’ and ‘plague’ dehumanizes the zombies, likening them to a deadly viral infection.

Nevertheless, overall Brooks seems to liken the crisis to a war rather than an epidemic. He shows this when the American ambassador recalls the words of Winston Churchill, asking them to fight until, “‘every trace was sponged, and purged, and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the Earth'” (265). These words were first uttered in Churchill’s “Speech to the Allied Delegates,” wherein Churchill called upon other nations to take a harsh stand against Adolf Hitler. The reader can easily conjecture that Brooks is likening the ambassador to Churchill in this moment, asking other nations to aid in his offensive against their modern aggressor, the zombies.

It was in this same speech that Churchill popularized the term ‘quisling,’ to describe one who collaborates with the enemy (named after Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian leader who collaborated with the Nazis). Earlier in the novel, Brooks used this term for, “people that went nutballs and started acting like zombies” (155). As the narrator later elaborates, “…in regular war… people who are invaded sign up for the enemy’s army. Collaborators, sometimes even more die-hard than the people they’re trying to mimic…” (156). These quislings expanded fear in the populace, while at the same time contributing to Phalanx’s popularity (people who were bitten by quislings and did not get infected may have assumed that the drug worked). In doing so, they embodied yet another perpetrator of this war.


Vidkun Quisling, the namesake of the term used, disavows an idea similar to the one that the delegate from the ‘developing’ country suggested: that the zombies were creating justice by providing revenge for those oppressed by imperialist aims.

War often requires strong leaders, like Churchill and the American ambassador, to make tough decisions that often require practicality rather than morality. Remaining on the defensive would run the risk of allowing zombies to regain strength in numbers outside the safe areas. Additionally, politically, keeping the human populace constrained in a particular place for a lengthy period of time almost definitively ensures revolution at some point. Therefore, I would also have voted yes to the resolution and have gone on the offensive against the zombies.


One thought on “Implications of War

  1. I thought it was very interesting that you noticed how different members of the Honolulu Conference viewed the zombie crisis from the different perspectives of war and epidemic. You stated that “Brooks seems to liken the crisis to a war rather than an epidemic.” I thought this related to our conversation of how World War Z is different from an outbreak narrative. Many outbreak narratives like The Hot Zone discuss “cases” and “plague” as some delegates of the Honolulu Conference did, depersonalizing the story and keeping the reader safely separated from the context of the disease. However, Brooks presents the zombie outbreak as a war, which makes the outbreak more sympathetic to the reader. We are able to see the emotional aspects related to an outbreak because of how it has similarities to a war. For example, we discover that people from a variety of backgrounds are impacted by the war, including a hibakusha who believed that “the greatest of all [his] dishonorable acts” was not being able to warn his brother about the epidemic (Brooks 219). We learn about the discrimination he faces in society because of his status as a hibakusha and sympathize with his love for his family. Brooks demonstrates the emotional impacts of outbreaks instead of just presenting outbreaks as an investigative mystery, effectively conveying powerful messages about human nature to the readers.


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