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Themes

Mankind has spent a healthy amount of its history trying to make its place in the natural world a comfortable one. In World War Z, a couple brain-craving zombies show up and undo all that hard, hard work. Like a hurricane or plague, the zombies knock us out of our civilized trappings, forcing us to confront the natural world on a level playing field. To make matters worse, our survival instinct has dulled so much that we're horribly, horribly out of practice dealing with nature in our day-to-day existence. Add to that those zombies we mentioned, and things aren't looking so good for us.

Questions About Man & the Natural World

  1. When characters enter the natural world, what problems do they find? How do they overcome these problems? What does this suggest about the novel's take on nature?
  2. Sometimes, the zombies are compared to animals. Why is this? Is it a fair comparison? Why or why not?
  3. What distinctions does the novel draw between the civilized world and the natural world? Do we see these distinctions break down at any point in the novel? If yes, at what point and why is this important? If not, then why do you suppose they remain distinct?

Chew on This

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

One symbolic purpose for the zombies is to demonstrate that we cannot escape the natural world. Although we may think we've protected ourselves from the natural world, we can never truly escape it because we're a part of it.

Once forced to rely on our natural instincts, modern-day technology and civilized society become more a hindrance than a help during a disaster.

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