Study Guide

World War Z Weaponry

By Max Brooks


Images of weapons feature prominently in World War Z. How prominent are they? Take a look:

The next kill zone was direct fire form the heavy arms, the tank's main 120s and Bradleys with their chain guns and FOTT missiles. The Humvees also began to open up, mortars and missiles and the Mark-19s, which are, like, machine guns, but firing grenades. The Comanches came whining in at what felt like inches above our heads with chains and Hellfires and Hydra rocket pods. (4.7.31)

That's one of the many paragraphs, in the Battle of Yonkers alone, describing weaponry. Don't even get Colonel Eliopolis started on aircraft; you'll be there all day. So, why?

Guns Don't Kill Zombies; People Kill Zombies

Depending on how you read the novel, you'll probably have your own answer to this question. Our favorite has to do with paying attention to how and why the novel's narrators favor certain types of weaponry.

According to Todd Wainio, one of the failures of the Battle of Yonkers was not understanding the weaponry. HE 155s and MLRS rockets sure do go boom well, but when your goal is to "destroy the brain, not the body," they make for a poor offensive option because they're less precise than even a lowly hunting rifle. Instead, Todd Wainio prefers the SIR (standard infantry rifle) or even the hand-to-hand weapon, the Lobo (8.2.3-4).

Notice the difference? These are simple weapons. They don't use million-dollar guidance systems or require an engineering degree to operate. Instead, they can be learned, taken care of, and used by anybody.

The difference goes beyond mere kill ratio. Symbolically, the simple weapons support the novel's promotion of individuality and self-reliance. According to the novel, the government, military, and your society are there to help you along—but not take over. As Arthur Sinclair put it, society provides the collection of the individual's "tools and talent" (6.1.3).

With the more technologically advanced weapons, the protagonists have little control over their operation or targets. The tools are there but the talent is missing. With the more simple weapons, the protagonists can work together or alone to met the threat. In taking up their choice of weapon, they also chose the path to individuality and self-reliance.