We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
World War Z

World War Z


by Max Brooks

President "the Big Guy" and Vice President "the Whacko"

Character Analysis

Remember Carlson Grover? Guy was a jerk wasn't he? He also represented all the problems the novel has with politicians who abuse the political systems for their own ends. Well, the novel has two foils for Carlson Grover's character, and they are the President and "the Whacko."

As far as characters go, the President and the Whacko are the Abbott and Costello, the Laurel and Hardy, the Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker of World War Z. In other words, they have polar opposite personalities that must come together to reach a common goal. The President is smooth, calm, and logical; the Vice President is a passionate and, well, they call him "the Whacko" for a reason. But both of these men provide the novel with examples of good politicians. Not perfect politicians, mind you, but good ones.

Powermen 5000

What separates the President from the weaker members of the political pack? For starters, he isn't playing the game just to keep his job or power. He's not there to keep the paychecks flowing but to do a job by upholding a set of principles.

We can see this fact when President maintains elections. Should he have opposed the elections, he very well might have obtained absolute power. But he insists on holding an election. Why? Because they're an important part of America's ideals, and he didn't want to become America's first Caesar: "to be one would mean the end of America" (6.2.13).

This decision is in direct opposition to two examples of poor politicians in the novel: Grover Carlson and the Russian President. Carlson mentions that his sole purpose in office was to stay in office and only help the people who support those ends (3.4.15). Meanwhile, the Russian president did seize the power of a Caesar and became an absolute monarch, politician, and religious figurehead (9.2.12).

Although "the Whacko" initially disagrees with the President on this one, he eventually comes to see the importance and wisdom of the move.

Boy, You Gotta Carry that Weight

The other aspect of the President that signifies him as a decent leader is that he takes responsibility for his actions.

The President had to make some rather awful decisions while in office. He had to create a new criminal punishment system that seemed practically medieval with its floggings and use of pillories. He also had to order the complete destruction of some secessionist states that were formed after the government bugged out west of the Rookies, resulting in the deaths of many Americans.

Both decisions may or may not have been the right choice, but the novel still praises the President for "shoulder[ing] such a crushing burden" (6.2.26). These words echo ones used by Philip Adler to describe the responsibility General Lang could not shoulder, creating another foil between the President and another sadly inefficient leader (5.2.25).

So, the President and Vice President—who carries on the President's legacy—may not be perfect, but they certainly are novel's examples of decent politicians. They do what they do for the people—not for themselves.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...