Study Guide

Warm Bodies Themes

  • Death

    YOLO? In Warm Bodies, the characters don't just live once. They might not even just live twice. They might end up living forever. But that remains to be seen. And frankly it's besides the point. Sure, our zombie leading man might be immortal, but he still spends a ton of time pondering the great gig in the sky. And the Living, too, are plagued by thoughts of death. But what else would you expect from a book about, well, zombies?

    Questions About Death

    1. R is dead, kind of. So why does he have hang ups about death?
    2. Why do R and Julie want to "cure" death? Why does Perry want to die?
    3. Since the Dead in Warm Bodies have thoughts and feelings, and can die, can they really be considered "dead"? At the end of the day, what's the difference?

    Chew on This

    It's possible to just deny death away. Who knew? R shows us that by simply caring a lot and really wanting to live, you cannot die. Here's to eternal life!

    The way the Living treat the Dead is a good allegory for how people view death in general: it's scary and we have to fight it.

  • Change

    It's a fact: people don't like change. Fear is a big part of it, then there's the fact that "when you've been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you've been doing it that way, the better it is" (source).

    Warm Bodies tackles this head on. There's fear—the Living have isolated themselves in a stadium away from the dead. And then there's something that we humans have been doing since the beginning of time: dying. Warm Bodies decides that dying isn't the only way to do things, even though we've been doing it for a long time, and R and Julie try to change it. We wish them luck, but we're pretty sure death is the one thing that will never change.

    Questions About Change

    1. How does R start prompting change in his fellow zombies?
    2. What is it about Julie that makes R—and other zombies—want to change?
    3. Julie says that there was big hope for change when society had a chance to rebuild. What did they want to change, and why did they fail to change it?
    4. Why are the Boneys resistant to change?

    Chew on This

    You can't change anything by yourself. Only together do R and Julie manage to create a big change.

    Julie ends up changing on a molecular level when she kisses R. Talk about a commitment to the cause.

  • Love

    Since humans knew we had hearts (maybe when a saber-toothed tiger clawed one out of a caveman or something), we've associated those hearts with love. In Warm Bodies, R the zombie still associates it with love, but the problem is, his heart no longer beats. He listens to some of the world's greatest love songs (no, not Captain and Tennille), and hopes to one day feel his heart beat again. Once he finds Julie, it does, and one of his favorite love songs takes on a new meaning: "All You Need is Love." Ain't that the truth?

    Questions About Love

    1. Why is it necessary to R for the person he loves to have a name?
    2. How does love end up curing the zombies of their, well, zombie-ness?
    3. Would R have known what love was if he hadn't eaten Perry's brain?

    Chew on This

    It isn't just romantic love that saves the day in Warm Bodies, it's a love of life in general that inspires the dying world.

    There are a lot of similarities between R & Julie and that other classic love-struck duo, Romeo & Juliet. But here's one key difference: Romeo & Juliet died for love; R & Julie live for it.

  • Memories and the Past

    If you woke up tomorrow with no memories, would you even know who you were? Memories and identity are closely related—so related, in fact that one of the main reasons for R's zombie identity crisis is that he has no memories of the past. It's not as bad as being a zombie version of Memento, but it's close. Warm Bodies turns classic zombie mythology on its head by making this loss of memory a zombie's main motivation for braaaaaiiinns. They're not eating brains because they're hungry; they're eating brains because it gives them a jolt of memory. And to a zombie, memories are life.

    Questions About Memories and the Past

    1. R starts feeling alive when he starts having memories and dreams, yet almost all of the memories and dreams he has are Perry's. Is R living his own life or someone else's?
    2. Why does Perry choose the memories he shows to R?
    3. Both Julie and the Boneys are big advocates of taking photos to preserve memories. What's the difference between the way the Living use photos and the way the Dead do?

    Chew on This

    Whereas the Living use drugs to forget, zombies use brains as drugs to remember. Both are addictive for the exact opposite reasons.

    Without memories, R and the rest of the Dead have no past. But they show that it's never too late to start making memories.

  • Passivity

    We were going to talk about passivity here, but, ugh, that would require effort. We're right in the middle of a two-day-long Walking Dead marathon, and, ugh, thinking? Turning our brains on? Nah, we'd rather not.

    Don't get us wrong, we love TV, reading, relaxing, all that stuff. But it can get to a point where you're not just watching The Walking Dead—you are the walking dead. Instead of being engaged in life, you're just sailing through it, and it's hard to tell the difference between you and a drooling, brain-eating zombie. In Warm Bodies, Julie's theory is that passivity, an overwhelming malaise, is what led to the zombie outbreak. Not a virus or biological warfare, just good old-fashioned laziness. So engage your brain, or it just might get eaten.

    Questions About Passivity

    1. In what ways are the Dead community and the Living community similar in their passive ways of interacting with the world?
    2. How has the Living's passivity led to the zombie outbreak? In what ways are they still passive?
    3. Perry used to be an active dreamer. Why did he succumb to passivity?

    Chew on This

    Preserving the status quo is a form of passivity. The residents of the stadium show how easy it is to fall back into old habits and repeat old mistakes.

    "Easy" is the key word here. "Easy" is passive. "Hard" is active. In Warm Bodies anything that's easy—like the whole zombie lifestyle—isn't fulfilling as things that take effort.

  • Consciousness and Existence

    We've seen and read enough zombies stories to know that they totally exist. Sure, the zombie apocalypse may not have happened yet, but it's only a matter of when not if. Need more proof? The Zombie Survival Guide is a New York Times bestseller... on the non-fiction list. If World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide have taught us anything, it's that zombies are mindless creatures intent on eating our flesh and devouring our brains. Or are they?

    Warm Bodies asks, what if zombies had a conscience? What if they're thinking, feeling beings. Sure, the intensity of their emotions is dialed down to about -4, while their ravenous bloodlust is cranked up to 11, but they still feel. If something has thoughts, does that mean if it doesn't breathe, doesn't bleed, and might not even have all its crucial body parts, it can still be considered alive?

    Questions About Consciousness and Existence

    1. How does R's daily life change now that he is Dead? How is it the same?
    2. What philosophical thoughts does R have as a zombie that he probably never had when he was Living?
    3. How do Julie and Nora try to live while everyone else merely exists?

    Chew on This

    "Death" is just a state of mind. By being conscious of his life choices and having a more mindful existence, R brings himself back to life.

    It's a big world out there, and we may never know everything. R mentions Dark Age doctors who tried their best to save people using now-laughable medical techniques. Who knows what we're doing wrong today. Like zombies, the Living are just shuffling through life, too, trying to understand this great existence we're all a part of.

  • Literature and Writing

    The Epic of Gilgamesh was written around 2500 BCE. That makes it the oldest book on Earth. Older than the Bible. And people are still talking about it. Warm Bodies even uses it as its epigraph (which you can read more about in our "What's Up With the Epigraph?" section). This alone shows the crazy longevity of the written word. The characters in that book—in any book—stay alive long after its author has moved on. Like everything in Warm Bodies, the ultimate result is life. Life is like one big system that's bigger than just people, and reading and writing is a crucial artery to keeping lifeblood flowing.

    Questions About Literature and Writing

    1. How does R's life start to change when he remembers how to read?
    2. How is Living society affected by its growing illiteracy?
    3. Why is writing so important to Perry? Why does he stop writing?
    4. What themes do The Epic of Gilgamesh and Warm Bodies share?

    Chew on This

    Around the time Perry gives up on writing is when he gives up on life. Perhaps if he had been encouraged to continue writing, he wouldn't have basically committed suicide.

    While learning how to grow food and defend yourself from zombies is necessary to physical survival, reading and writing is necessarily to emotional survival. The survivors in the stadium have neglected the literacy part, and as a result they're failing to grow.

  • Identity

    A zombie is a zombie is a zombie, right? Sure, some of them are crustier than others. Some don't have legs, some are missing half their face, but they're all basically the same. They want your brain, you want to blow their heads off. Easy.

    Ah, but Warm Bodies complicates things a bit. These zombies not only have their own personalities, they have names. Well, they have the first letters of names and they're desperately trying to remember the rest. There's something about a name that makes them seem more like people, and that just makes it harder to want to kill them.

    Questions About Identity

    1. What aspects of R's personality are him, and which parts did he inherit from Perry?
    2. At the end of the novel, why does R no longer want to remember his name?
    3. Why are names so important to the Dead?

    Chew on This

    R spends a lot of time early on trying to figure out what his fellow zombies were before they died. By the end of the novel, R realizes that it doesn't matter—they can build a new identity and start fresh.

    R's quest for identity isn't that much different from the untold story of the orphans he visits. Neither knows their parents, or what they've inherited from them. When finding themselves, they're kind of on their own.