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Themes

Go figure, right? A zombie novel with the theme of fear, could things get any more unoriginal? Actually, it could get way more unoriginal because Brooks truly does some interesting stuff with fear here. Unlike a low-grade horror novel about cheap fears and thrills, World War Z explores fear as its central theme. It addresses many different types of human fears—and not just the ho-hum zombie fear of being horrifically eaten alive. It also uses fear to springboard into an exploration of human nature and government. This way, fear becomes more than just boogity-boos that make you jump in the night. It becomes the scary-pants glue that binds all the novel's layers together.

Questions About Fear

  1. Find two scenes where fear hurts a character. This could mean it hinders the character or prevents them from making rational decisions. Your choice. Comparing these two scenes, what can you say about the theme of fear in the novel?
  2. Can you find a scene where fear becomes a useful tool for a character? If yes, what scene is it? If not, why do you suppose this is? Does this new information make you reconsider the purpose you think fear serves in the novel?
  3. How does the zombie's lack of fear make them such a horrific foe for humanity? Does their lack of fear prove to also hinder the zombies? If so how?
  4. What character would you say is the most fearful? What character is the least fearful? Does this comparison suggest anything about the nature of fear and people?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

World War Z relates the zombies to scenarios and things that raise fear on a global level—for example viruses, war, plague, famine, and natural disasters.

The novel also explores the exploitation of fear as a survival tactic through such characters as Todd Wainio and "Break" Scott.

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