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World War Z

World War Z

by Max Brooks

Official Reports

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

You know what's fun? Writing syllogisms (fun being a relative term). Here's one we just came up with:

Major Premise: Novels usually have people or objects symbolizing their important themes.
Minor Premise: Education is an important theme in World War Z.
Conclusion: Education probably has a person or object symbolizing the theme in World War Z.

And it does. In fact, it has two important symbols to consider when figuring out the novel's view on the importance of knowledge and using that knowledge effectively. They are:

The Sound of Silence

The "Warmbrunn-Knight" report is the first report that tries to educate the governments of the world on the zombie threat. Unfortunately, it's mostly ignored—at the cost of millions of human lives, billions of dollars of damage, and a war that set human civilization back a century or two.

Why was the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report ignored? According to Carlson Grover:

Can you imagine what America would have been like if the federal government slammed on the breaks every time some paranoid crackpot cried "wolf" or "global warming" or "living dead"? Please. What we did, what every president since Washington has done, was provide a measured, appropriate response, in direct relation to a realistic threat assessment. (3.4.4)

In short, rather than educating themselves on the new situation, the administration used tried-and-true methods that required them to learn nothing new, gather no new knowledge. And that laziness almost turns us all into zombies (both literally and metaphorically).

The Spock Directive

The Redeker Plan can be seen as the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report's successor. Like the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report, Paul Redeker's plan is a series of suggestion for weathering an undead swarm. In fact, Warmbrunn says, "if more people had read our report and worked to makes its recommendations a reality, then that plan would have never needed to exist" (2.6.18). So while Redeker's Plan is a necessary successor, that's not necessarily a good thing.

So, we hear some of you saying, what's the big deal? Redeker's Plan was listened to and the "Warmbrunn-Knight" Report wasn't; what's the difference? The answer: just a couple million (or even billion) human lives.

The "Warmbrunn-Knight" report calls for fortifying a nation's position before the zombies arrive, ensuring everyone behind the defensive line was more-or-less protected.

Redeker's plan calls for setting up a safe zone with some of a nation's citizens and then herding the rest into "special isolated zones" where they "were to be 'human bait'" for the living dead (5.1.14). See the difference?

The Redeker Plan picks up where the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report leaves off. Whereas the "Warmbrunn-Knight" report shows the importance of education, the Redeker Plan shows that you can always re-educate yourself to face a new situation.

Of course, the longer you wait to gather your knowledge and develop your plan, the least likely you are to like your answer. True of war, true of politics, and certainly true when facing a swarm of deadheads.

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