Study Guide

World War Z Quotes

  • Fear

    They warned me not to touch him, that he was "cursed." (2.1.11)

    These Chinese villagers mix fear with a dollop of irrationality. As the novel progresses, we'll see that these two flavors go well together.

    The older ones, they just started running. They had a different kind of survival instinct, an instinct born in a time when they were slaves in their own country. In those days, everyone knew who "they" were ever coming, and if "they" were ever coming, all you could do was run and pray. (2.5.6)

    Here, the novel connects the theme of "Fear" to the theme of "Man & the Natural World." We fear things because it's a part of our natural survival instinct. Thanks to a history of slavery, the older ones have that survival instinct honed to a sharp point. (And they're pretty good at using sharp points, too.)

    If a neighbor's nuclear power plant might be used to make weapons-grade plutonium, you dig; if a dictator was rumored to be building a cannon so big it could fire anthrax shells across whole countries, you dig; and if there was even the slightest chance that dead bodies were being reanimated as ravenous killing machines, you dig and dig until you stike [sic] the absolute truth. (2.6.8)

    Jurgen's country has trained itself to response to fearful scenarios by learning as much as possible to make informed decisions. As we'll see in the "Education" section, this response to fear seems to be the book's preferred one.

    The TV was blaring in the background, riot police storming the front entrance of a house. You couldn't see what they were shooting at inside. The official report blamed the violence on "pro-Western extremists." (2.7.12)

    We'll call Saladin's response the "fill in the blank" method. Take the thing you fear—here, the unknown—and identify it with something you hate, like pro-Western extremists. While not at all accurate, the method sure seems to make Saladin feel better.

    Secrecy is a vacuum and nothing fills a vacuum like paranoid speculation. (3.1.2)

    You know how they say, "you fear what you don't understand"? Well, that's basically the idea here, only written with a more artistic spin.

    The only rule that ever made sense to me I learned from a history, not an economics, professor at Wharton. "Fear," he used to say, "fear is the most valuable commodity in the universe." That blew me away. […] Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure, Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells. (3.3.3)

    Breckinridge Scott links his dubious entrepreneurial exploits to fear. He who fears, buys. And he who buys, um, spends money?

    […] the weapon that really failed wasn't something that rolled off an assembly line. It's as old as… I don't know, I guess as old as war. It's fear, dude, just fear and you don't have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn't about killing or even hurting the other guy, it's about scaring him enough to call it a day. (4.7.56)

    The truly scary thing about zombies is their inability to feel fear. Any other animal, including humans, have the ability to fear. But zombies only feel a deep-pitted, ravenous hunger for humans and their brains. They're not even fearful that one day they'll run out of brain snacks.

    You can't blame anyone else, not the plan's architect, not your commanding officer, no one but yourself. You have to make your own choices and live every agonizing day with the consequences of those choices. [General Lang] knew this. That's why he deserted us like we deserted those civilians. (5.2.25)

    Fear of consequences is yet another type of fear explored in World War Z. The characters linked to the military have to consider this fear often in the novel.

    Maybe we owe our survival to [North Korea], or at least to the fear of it. (7.3.14)

    Can fear be a good thing? If it helps you prepare for the unexpected, then it seems so. What qualifies as unexpected? How about a worldwide zombie crisis?

    It's comforting to see children again, I mean those who were born after the war, real children who know nothing but a world that includes the living dead. They know not to play near water, not to go out alone or after dark in the spring or summer. They don't know to be afraid, and that is the greatest gift, the only gift we can leave to them. (9.6.2)

    The novel's ending suggests that the thing you fear can eventually become a typical part of your everyday life. After an undead apocalypse, that's about as happy an ending as you can hope for.

  • Education

    My father was a simple man, a day laborer. I can't blame him for his lack of formal education, his dream of a better life for his family. And so we settled in Khayelitsha, one of the four main townships outside of Cape Town. It was a life of grinding, hopeless, humiliating poverty. It was my childhood. (2.5.2)

    The zombie threat can symbolize many worldwide problems. Here, we see that lack of knowledge can be just as deadly as rabies.

    […], how [Yonkers] proved the old adage that armies perfect the art of fighting the last war just in time for the next one. Personally, I think that's a big 'ole sack of it. Sure, we were unprepared, our tools, our training, everything I just talked about, all one class-A, gold-standard clusterfuck, but the weapon that really failed wasn't something that rolled of an assembly line. It's as old as… (4.7.56)

    The problem with Yonkers isn't that the military only applied the lessons from the last war. The problem is they forgot to go back to the basics. You need to remember the basics whether you're starting trigonometry or engaged in a war of zombicide.

    [My father] was so caught up in the Great Panic. He told us it would be like an extended camping trip. We'd live on moose-burgers and wild berry desserts. He promised to teach me how to fish and asked what I wanted to name my pet rabbit when I caught it. He'd lived in Waukesha his whole life. He'd never been camping. (5.4.6)

    Let's face it most of us have no idea how to survive in a world without the Internet or refrigerators. We don't care how many episodes of Man vs. Wild you've seen; until you've actually field-dressed your own moose, you haven't earned your survivalist badge.

    I'd say it was the largest jobs training program since the Second World War, and easily the most radical in our history. (6.1.8)

    The chapter "Turning the Tide" focuses a lot on the education of people, both in the formal reforming of civilization and the school of hard knocks. And the school of hard knocks is about as awful as we'd imagine it would be.

    [The president] knew America wanted a Caesar, but to be one would mean the end of America. (6.2.13)

    The novel presents the zombie war president as an excellent politician at least in part because he educates himself with history. When Caesar took over Rome, democracy went out the door.

    Ignorance was the enemy. Lies and superstition, misinformation, disinformation. Sometimes, no information at all. Ignorance killed billions of people. Ignorance caused the Zombie War. Imagine if we had known then what we know now. Imagine if the undead virus had been as understand as say, tuberculosis was. (7.2.2)

    Well, gee, do we really have to analyze this one? "Ignorance caused the Zombie War." All right, Brooks. We got it.

    Like us, he'd been compiling the same facts. But whereas we'd been memorizing them, he'd been analyzing them. (7.4.7)

    Facts are great. But you can't just memorize facts; you have to use them. So, the SAT might get you into college, but it won't help you against the inevitable zombie invasion. (Did we say "inevitable"? Forget we said that.)

    That was the centerpiece of our whole new battle doctrine, back into the past like everything else. We massed in a straight line, two ranks: one active, one reserve. The reserve was so when anyone in the front rank needed a weapon recharge, their fire wouldn't be missed on the line. (8.2.18)

    And how does World War Z suggest we educate ourselves? By visiting Shmoop.com, of course: looking into the past. Here, the American military uses linear tactics dating back to the Revolutionary War.

    Most countries were just copying the Israeli method of sending people past dogs in cages. You always had to keep them in cages, otherwise they might attack the person, or each other, or even their handler. (8.3.3)

    The Israelis educate themselves to deal with the new situation, but the suggestion here is that education doesn't end with simply learning something new. What if you can improve upon what you learned? Seems you can teach an old dog new tricks.

    Nice to be able to say, "Hey, don't look at me, it's not my fault." Well, it is. It is my fault, and the fault of everyone of my generation. (9.5.2)

    What's Mary Jo have to blame herself and her people for? It's not a lack of education since they educated themselves. Our guess is that it's because she didn't recognize the need for education until a zombie was already smashing through her sliding glass doors.

  • Warfare

    I though I was ready for anything. [He looks out at the valley, his eyes unfocused.] Who in his right mind could have been ready for this?

    MacDonald's skirmish with the undead makes him the first military victim of World War Z. No, he didn't die, but posttraumatic stress disorder and the distrust of his own country provides its own kind of victimhood. While not as permanent as death, it's still an awful thing.

    Well, after almost allowing the Arabs to finish what Hitler started, we realized that not only was that mirror image necessary, but it must forever be our national policy. From 1973 onward, if nine intelligence analysts came to the same conclusion, it was the duty of the tenth to disagree. No matter how unlikely or far-fetched a possibility might be, one must always dig deeper. (2.6.8)

    Warfare certainly produces an awful history of suffering. But for Israel, the silver lining—the really thin silver lining—is that it can prepare you for some pretty awful times to come.

    [The PRC] realized that the best way to mask what they were doing was to hide it in plain sight. Instead of lying about the sweeps themselves, they just lied about what they were sweeping for. (3.1.8)

    "All war is deception," said Sun Tzu. "People might think you're crazy if you tell them you're hunting zombies," said Shmoop Tzu.

    In totalitarian regimes—communism, fascism, religious fundamentalism—popular support is a given. You can start wars, you can prolong them, you can put anyone in uniform for any length of time without ever having to worry about the slightest political backlash. In a democracy, the polar opposite is true. Public support must be husbanded as a finite national resource. (3.2.22)

    One could make the mistake of assuming war resources equal soldiers and the ammunition they need to shot. At least, we do when playing Call of Duty. But World War Z doesn't forget that public opinion can be just as finite a resource as bullets.

    From that moment on we lived in true freedom, the freedom to point to someone else and say "They told me to do it! It's their fault, not mine." The freedom, God help us, to say "I was only following orders." (4.4.31)

    Many a solider must decide whether or not to follow orders in World War Z. It's a problem we must all face in our lives, although thankfully—in most cases—without the deadly and horrific consequences present in wartime.

    That sound like the enemy we were about to go up against? Was Zack now calling in air strikes and fire missions? And why the hell were we worried about concealment when the whole point of the battle was to get Zack to come directly at us! So backasswards! All of it! (4.7.8)

    In World War I, tactics lagged way behind the technology. In other words, people were fighting with machines and mustard gas like they were still using flintlock pistols. In World War Z, the tactics didn't devolve to properly meet the enemy. Got to love those ironic twists.

    Ask anyone how the Allies won the Second World War. Those with very little knowledge might answer that it was our numbers or generalship. Those without any knowledge might point to techno-marvels like radar or the atom bomb. [Scowls.] Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of that conflict will give you three real reasons: […]. (6.1.18)

    Military aficionados love their technology (again, check out our "Shout-outs" section). In World War Z, the higher-up needed to relearn the basics and focus a little less on the big, flashy, extra bang of superior tech.

    Did [the film] show the dark side of the heroes in The Hero City? Did it show the violence and the betrayal, the cruelty, the depravity, the bottomless evil in some of those "heroes" hearts? No, of course not. Why would it? That was our reality and it's what drove so many people to get snuggled in bed, blow out their candles, and take their last breath. (6.4.58)

    World War Z shows a bit of the relationship between warfare and art. In this case, some art rose-tints the horrific nature of war. Here's the thing: World War Z is a piece of art, so its commentary on war and art is subject to the same criticism.

    In war, in a conventional war that is, we spend so much time trying to dehumanize the enemy, to create an emotional distance. We would make up stories or derogatory titles… when I think about what my father used to call Muslims… and now in this war it seemed that everyone was trying desperately to find some shred of a connection to their enemy, to put a human face on something that was so unmistakably inhuman. (7.2.10)

    By dehumanizing the enemy, traditional war propaganda tries to make the populace hate the enemy, sometimes for aspects the enemy has no control over like race. But things aren't so simple when your enemy is your people, only more dead.

    That is the nature of human warfare, two sides trying to push the other past its limit of endurance, and no matter how much we like to talk about total war, that limit is always there… unless you're the living dead. (8.1.13)

    In conclusion, something that sums up warfare in World War Z and quite a few other novels: war is about the limits of what people can do and what they can endure, whether it's the good, the bad, or the zombie.

  • Primitivity

    I'm saying I made a lot of people rich: border guards, bureaucrats, police, even the mayor. These were still good times for China, where the best way to honor Chairman Mao's memory was to see his face on as many hundred yuan notes as possible. (2.2.8)

    A lesson in irony. The border guards try to feed their desire for self-preservation by acquiring money. Sadly, the way they acquired said money actually put their, and the rest of the human race's, self-preservation at risk. In a word, karma.

    Now, even if this wasn't a territorial hit, even if it was a religious or tribal revenge killing, no one just abandons fifty kilos of prime, raw, Bad Brown, or perfectly good assault rifles, or expensive personal trophies like watches, mini disc players, and GPS locaters. (2.3.4)

    MacDonald doesn't see the usual evidence self-preservation (i.e. someone taking the things that'll obviously net them some cash). To his well-trained eyes, that's the first sign that things are amiss.

    Thank God there is no cure for rabies. A cure would make people buy it only if they thought they were infected. But a vaccine! That's preventative! People will keep taking that as long as they're afraid it's out there! (3.3.5)

    How pervasive is our need for self-preservation? So pervasive that Mr. Scott can exploit it to make himself a mint.

    […] it means that, in politics, you focus on the needs of your power base. Keep them happy, and they keep you in office. (3.4.15)

    A politician promises to help us maintain our primitive desire for self-preservation. In turn, we help the politician do just that by keeping them in office and with a paycheck. Quid pro quo, Clarice.

    […] but they never mention that, by far, there's nothing more marketable than knowing how to kill some people while keeping others from being killed. (4.5.2)

    Some people construct their entire identity around violence. But if you live for war—what happens when the war is over?

    Redeker argued that these isolated, uninfected refugees must be kept alive, well defended and even resupplied, if possible, so as to keep the undead hordes firmly rooted to the spot. You see the genius, the sickness? (5.1.14)

    Here, we have a question of humanitarianism—doing what is necessary to provide the most good for the most number of people. Is the Redeker plan that sacrifices some people for the benefit of others primitive or—humanitarian? World War Z provides no definitive answers.

    Because Americans worship technology. It's an inherent trait in the national zeitgeist. Whether we realize it or not, even the most indefatigable Luddite can't deny our country's technoprowess. (6.4.44)

    Humanity's need for self-preservation has always connected strongly with our tools: flint arrow heads, the pulley, and the tools of agriculture. In World War Z, America lets this technological zeal go maybe a little too far. On the other hand, we aren't so sure how well we'd survive without the Internet ourselves. (We'd definitely be out of a job.)

    We had this great campsite right on the shore of a lake, not too many people around, but just enough to make us feel "safe," you know, if any of the dead show up. Everyone was real friendly, this big collective vibe of relief. (5.4.15)

    These survivors have forgotten about a little something called winter—but it's coming anyway. Winter without modern heating devices is one harsh mistresss, and these survivors' need for self preservation will push their primitivity to the edge.

    In a world of information without context, where status was determined on its acquisition and possession, those of my generation could rule like gods. […] I didn't have to worry about my appearance, or my social etiquette, my grades, or my prospects for the future. (7.4.4)

    World War Z takes a few moments to point out that our sub-worlds—like the Internet—have their own rules for self-preservation. For the Internet, the first rule is to provide people with the information they want. The second rule: nobody likes a forum troll—the Internet's most primitive members.

    I'm not going to say the war was a good thing. I'm not that much of a sick fuck, but you've got to admit that it did bring people together. (9.7.2)

    Although the zombie war is awful, it did remind people about the importance of self- and community-preservation. Worth it? Eh, maybe not.

  • Man & the Natural World

    Few of you Yankees asked where your new kidney or pancreas was coming from, be it a slum kid from the City of God or some unlucky student in a Chinese political prison. You didn't know, you didn't care. You just signed your traveler's checks, went under the knife, then went home to Miami or New York or wherever. (2.4.41)

    As we'll see time and time again in World War Z, our survival instinct can be at odds with our intelligence Bet this character won't eat a piece of gum he found off the street, right? Then why would he put a ticker in his chest that someone else might have found on the side of the street? (Of course, the stakes are a little higher when you're talking about needing a new heart.)

    He thought that if we abandoned our tribal homeland and relocated to a city, there would be a brand-new house and high-paying jobs just sitting there waiting for us. (2.5.2)

    World War Z focuses not only on a man's survival in the natural world, but also the human world. Each has hazards to avoid, and unfortunately for Jacob's dad, he doesn't do so well here.

    It wasn't even the idea of safety anymore, it was the idea of the idea of safety. (3.3.23)

    Half of all survival in the natural world is mental. The idea of safety, the belief that you'll make it is fifty percent of the battle. Uh, we're pretty sure we heard that on Survivorman or something.

    I met the whore's rat dog as we were both heading for the back door. He looked at me, I looked at him. If it'd been a conversation, it probably woulda gone like, "What about your master?" "What about yours?" (4.5.17)

    Man meets Chihuahua and discovers a kindred soul in the need to survive in the natural world. Besides, the dog has a better chance with the zombies than he does the helter-skelter life of the rich and fabulous. At least you know where you stand with the zombies.

    But, like everything else in our country, that dream never came true. Even before the crisis, the bridge had been a nightmare of traffic jams. Now it was crammed with evacuees. (5.3.5)

    As the civilized world falls apart around us, our survival instinct will kick in. But the modern world wasn't exactly built with this kind of thing in mind—whether it's a natural disaster or a zombie invasion.

    Panic shot through the crowd. You could see it like a wave, like a current of electricity. People started screaming, trying to push forward, back, into one another. Dozens were jumping into the water with heavy clothes and shoes that prevented them from swimming. (5.3.14)

    The people's panic causes them to not think about their situation. They only see the zombies attacking and don't consider that they're, you know, going from the frying pan into the fire. Or from being eaten alive to drowning alive. (We'd probably take the drowning.)

    Winters were hard. Remember how long they used to be? Helping people to help themselves is great in theory, but you still gotta keep'em alive. (6.5.19)

    Ah, winter, what a mild inconvenience you are with your frosty car windows, sidewalks in need of a good salting, and sky-high electric bills. But without our technological marvels, winter would be less of a nuisance and more of a life-threatening event.

    You should have seen some of the "careers" listed on our first employment census; everyone was some version of an "executive," a "representative," an "analyst," or a "consultant," all perfectly suited to the prewar world, but all totally inadequate for the present crisis. We need carpenters, masons, machinists, gunsmiths. (6.1.5)

    As we mentioned before, you have to consider survival in terms of both the natural world and man's world in World War Z. Some skills transfer between the two, others…eh, not so much.

    That hit me hard, a lot harder than the little faceless kid. This guy had had everything he needed to survive, everything except the will. (6.5.57)

    Another example of the willpower needed to survive the natural world. The problem here isn't that the guy couldn't survive—it's that he didn't want to.

    This network [of satellites] was as important to the modern world as roads had been in ancient times, or rail lines during the industrial age. What would happen to humanity if these all-important links just started dropping out of the sky? (7.8.5)

    Let's be clear here: we're part of the natural world, like it or not. Our tools help make this relationship a little bit more bearable for us. Roads in ancient times, railroads after that, and now, best of all, smartphones.

  • Politics

    [The cops] helped explain to my other patients that a homicidal maniac had broken into the clinic and killed both Herr Muller and Doctor Silva. They also made sure that none of the staff said anything to contradict that story. (2.4.23)

    One of many early examples of corruption in the political system helping the zombies along. Seriously, though, the cops take it all in stride a little too well, right? How often do people eat other people in their district?

    The UN is a bureaucratic masterpiece, so many nuggets of valuable data buried in mountains of unread reports. I found incidents all over the world, all of them dismissed with "plausible" explanations. (2.6.10)

    That doesn't sound like a masterpiece at all. It actually sounds pretty inept, inefficient, and—ah, we see what you did there, Max Brooks.

    All the factional fighting, the violence between our various resistance organizations, I knew that would die down once we unified for the final blow against the Jews. Couldn't my father see this? Couldn't he understand that, in a few years, a few months, we would be returning to our homeland, this time as liberators, not as refugees. [sic] (2.7.10)

    Prejudice and politics go together like sauerkraut and rocky road ice cream. Oh? You think those two things don't go together? That doesn't mean some people don't enjoy the combo.

    Please, are you serious? Back then the FDA was one of the most underfunded, mismanaged organizations in the country. I think they were still high-fiving over getting Red No. 2 out of M&Ms. Plus, this was one of the most business-friendly administrations in American history. (3.3.8)

    Most of the time, World War Z uses zombies as a fictional device to probe the inadequacies of bureaucracy and political organizations. Here, underfunding and mismanagement are given as very realistic and plausible problems. The zombies were just the mob of rotting flesh that broke the dam.

    Oh, c'mon. Can you ever "solve" poverty? Can you ever "solve" crime? Can you ever "solve" disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That's not cynicism, that's maturity. (3.4.11)

    Actually, that's cynicism—but it's cynicism with a point. No, a government probably can't solve these issues, but does that mean they shouldn't try? We're guessing no. We'd also like to point out that any zombie crisis can easily be solved, as long as you have enough bullets and people to shoot them.

    I don't blame them, the government, the people who were supposed to protect us. […] No, I don't blame them for wanting to divert us, I can forgive that. But the irresponsible way they did it, the lack of vital information that would have helped so many to stay alive… that I can never forgive. (5.4.2)

    Yeah, we're thinking that this is important. See, the novel isn't saying that government is a bad thing. Rather, it's critiquing certain irresponsible aspects of today's governments. The novel just happens to find a lot of these irresponsible aspects.

    He used methods that were almost Marxist in nature, the kind of collectivization that would make Ayn Rand leap from her grave and join the ranks of the living dead. […] One thing those New Dealers did better than any generation in American history was find and harvest the right tools and talent. (6.1.3)

    Things don't turn around in World War Z until the political system adopts a Musketeer's attitude of "All for one; one for all." The Ayn Rand attitude of "Me for me and you for you" doesn't really pan out when the undead come a-knocking. (Well unless you're the guy in the bio-dome.) Let's see Atlas try and shrug off the deadhead army.

    Imagine if the world's citizens, or at least those charged with protecting those citizens, had known exactly what they were facing. Ignorance was the real enemy, and cold, hard facts were the weapons. (7.2.2)

    Another critique of government is that in trying to maintain a status quo they keep important facts from its citizens. If a zombie swarm were about to bust through your front door, wouldn't you want to know?

    No one was sure what the next day would bring, how far the calamity would spread, or who would be its next victim, and yet, no matter whom I spoke to or how terrified they sounded, each conversation would inevitably end with "But I'm sure the authorities will tell us what to do." (7.5.14)

    World War Z doesn't let us off: it stresses that part of blame for any government's problems must also be laid at our feet. Sure, it's easy to blame the big, bad government when things turn south—but when you point one finger, you've got three pointing back at yourself.

    You can blame the politicians the businessmen, the generals, the "machine," but really, if you're looking to blame someone, blame me. I'm the American system, I'm the machine. (9.5.2)

    Mary Jo Miller finally takes responsibility: too caught up in a busy life, she expected others to take care of certain problems for her without her involvement. On the other hand, that's what the taxpayers paid them to do…

  • Prejudice

    I happened to be born into a group of people who live in constant fear of extinction. It's part of our identity, part of our mind-set, and it had taught us through horrific trial and error to always be on our guard. (2.6.2)

    Jurgen is Jewish, and even a quick glance at Jewish history will show them to be the victims of some pretty heinous racism. It's prepared them for the worst of times, which are incoming in the form of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins…ghouls at any rate.

    I realized I practically didn't know anything about these people I'd hated my entire life. Everything I thought was true went up in smoke that day, supplanted by the face of our real enemy. (2.7.33)

    Frame this quote, because it basically sums up the entire perspective of racism in World War Z. Yep, our work here is done.

    She wasn't one of the ignorant ones, she was a "clean" Mexican. I'm sorry to use that term, but that was how I thought back then, that was who I was. (3.5.11)

    Interesting. Mary Jo goes through a hard time, learns a new way of life, and comes out the other end less prejudiced toward others (zombies notwithstanding). Hmm, wonder if the novel is trying to tell us something here….

    The bastards were shining their torches in people's faces, trying to root out darkies like me. I even saw one captain standing on the deck of his ship's launch, waving a gun and shouting "No scheduled castes, we won't take untouchables!" (4.2.11)

    While Mary Jo has a change of heart from her experiences, it's probably not going to be the same for everyone. This quote qualifies as case in point. (Although maybe a few years later they'd have been thinking differently.)

    No one thought it could happen, not between us. For God's sake, they helped us build our nuclear program from the ground up! […] we wouldn't have been a nuclear power if it wasn't for our fraternal Muslim brothers. (4.6.12)

    The novel begins broadening out toward the follies of other forms of discrimination. Here, the assumption is that people from the same nation, ethnicity, or religion will have your best interesting in heart, unlike those "others." For Ahmed, this assumption is blown away with all the force of nuclear bomb (and an actual nuclear bomb).

    Others have argued that, in order for a racist to hate one group, he must at least love another. Redeker believed both love and hate to be irrelevant. To him they were, "impediments of the human condition," […]. (5.1.3)

    Redeker created his plan for South Africa, a government famous for its apartheid system—a system that uses legislation to enforce the discriminatory practices of the ruling class. This is what you call irony.

    Yes, there was racism, but there was also classism. You're a high-powered corporate attorney. […] And suddenly [a plumber] is your teacher, maybe even your boss. For some, this was scarier than the living dead. (6.1.11)

    The novel makes the transition from to classism: different discrimination, similar jerkish results.

    As she tried some other half-hearted, half-assed excuses, I saw her eyes flick to my chair. [Joe is disabled.] Can you believe that? Here we were with mass extinction knocking on the door, and she's trying to be politically correct? (6.3.2-4)

    First racism, then classism, and now ableism. This novel really does cover the discriminatory spectrum, doesn't it?

    Oh, yes. You could see it was clearly written by an American, the references to SUVs and personal firearms. There was no taking into account the cultural differences… the various indigenous solutions people believed would save them from the undead. (7.2.14)

    We're not putting this quote here because it's out-and-out racism. Rather, it seems apt to remind people to consider the differences in cultures when dealing with such things as manners, politics, and the occasional horde of the not-so-dead.

    In Sapporo, I met an Ainu gardener, Ota Hideki, The Ainu are Japan's oldest indigenous group, and even lower on our social ladder than the Koreans. (7.5.7)

    Since World War Z focuses on a global perspective, the prejudice theme usually hones in on the kinds of hatred between ethnicities or entire countries. Here's a quick reminder that prejudice exists within countries in the form of such things like caste systems or mixed ancestry. If you want to know more about the Ainu people, NOVA's got your back.

  • Change

    I asked the villagers who had been taking care of these people. They said no one, it wasn't "safe." I noticed that the door had been locked from the outside. The villagers were clearly terrified. They cringed and whispered; some kept their distance and prayed. (2.1.6)

    Terror, up-rooted lives, death, and upset-stomach syndrome are the usual side effects that accompany nasty change. It's also the first flavor of change we taste in the novel.

    In order to test for something, you have to know what you're looking for. We didn't know about Walking Plague then. We were concerned with conventional ailments—hepatitis or HIV/AIDS—and we didn't even have time to test for those. (2.4.5)

    During the spread of the zombie plague, change was perhaps the number one weapon on the zombie's side. If you aren't ready for the change, you can't prepare for it. (If you're wondering, the inability to feel pain and their teeth come in as the zombies' number two and three weapons.

    Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's no stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature. I don't blame anyone for not believing (2.6.2)

    But why is resisting change human nature? Change happens to us all the time, so why are we always surprised when it occurs? Is it part of our survival makeup? A psychological thing? We aren't asking rhetorical questions here: we really, really want to know.

    We didn't lose the last brushfire conflict, far from it. We actually accomplished a very difficult task with very few resources and under extremely unfavorable circumstances. We won, but the public didn't see it that way because it wasn't the blitzkrieg smackdown that our national spirit demanded. (3.2.22)

    When life doesn't live up to our expectations, you'd think we'd just roll with the punches and move on. Do we? Sometimes, but other times these changes can be debilitating. This quote shows a real-life example of this type of change. Other examples include expecting dead relatives to stay dead rather than returning in deadly undead form.

    Looking back, I still can't believe how unprofessional the news media was. So much spin, so few hard facts. All those digestible sound bites from an army of "experts" all contradicting one another, all trying to seem more "shocking" and "in depth" than the last one. (5.4.4)

    Then again, some things never change—global zombie invasion or not. Looks like news media is one of them.

    We had our share of religious fundamentalists, what country didn't? Many of them believed that we were, in some way, interfering with God's will. (6.2.18)

    How are religions affected by such worldwide change? Do they stay true to their core and adapt at the periphery? Do they reinterpret their beliefs? World War Z offers plenty of these types of questions throughout the book for you to consider.

    Well, as I understand it, there's a type of person who just can't deal with a fight-or-die situation. They're always drawn to what they're afraid of. Instead of resisting it, they want to please it, join it, try to be like it. I guess that happens in kidnap situations, you know, like a Patty Hearst/Stockholm Syndrome-type, or, like in regular war, when people who are invaded sign up for the enemy's army. (6.3.22)

    Change meets the theme of "Primitivity" in this quote. Our hypothalamus has developed what's called a flight-or-fight response. If we come across something fearful (i.e. nasty change), we must decide whether to fight it or run away, including zombies and devilish bunnies.

    These detainees would do the jobs Cubanos no longer wanted—day laborers, dish washers, and street cleaners—and while their wages would be next to nothing […]. (7.6.18)

    The zombies don't just change how humans have to survive in the world. They change global economics and politics as well. Depending on where you live, this change can be either nasty or tasty.

    The long, hard road back to humanity, or the regressive ennui of Earth's once-proud primates. That was the choice, and it had to be made now. (7.9.11)

    The flight-or-fight response to change returns, but this time with a bigger scope: is humanity as a whole going to fight back, or is it just going to turn tail and flee?

    Eventually the voices woke me up; everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories. It was a different vibe, one-eighty from two days ago. I couldn't really put a finger on what I was feeling, maybe it was what the president said about "reclaiming our future." I just knew I felt good, better than I had the entire war. (8.2.47)

    And here's the good change: as many a video game player can tell you, nothing tastes better than victory over an army of fleshbags.

  • Love

    These [refugees] were desperate. They were trapped between their infections and being rounded up and "treated" by their own government. If you had a loved one, a family member, a child, who was infected, and you thought there was a shot of hope in some other country, wouldn't you do everything in your power to get there? Wouldn't you want to believe there was hope? (2.2.18)

    Deon Jackson once sang that love makes the world go 'round. Here, tragically, love helps the zombie apocalypse go 'round … the world.

    You'd hear banging from a car's boot, or, later, from crates and airholes in the backs of vans. Airholes… they really didn't know what was happening to their loved ones. (2.2.38)

    They say love isn't about changing people but about accepting them as they are. Perhaps an exception should be made for zombification.

    Public support must be husbanded as a finite national resource. […] America is especially sensitive to war weariness, and nothing brings on a backlash like the perception of defeat. I say "perception" because America is a very all-or-nothing society. We like the big win, the touchdown, the knockout in the first round. (3.2.22)

    People loving their country isn't a bad thing. It can be quite positive. But when that love shifts to jingoism, it can become something less than great for all involved, including the jingoist.

    All I did was what any of us are ever supposed to do. I chased my dream, and I got my slice. (3.3.29)

    Like love of country, love of one's self probably shouldn't cross a certain line. How do you know when you've crossed said line? If, like Breckinridge "Breck" Scott you've ever claimed to save everyone from a zombie apocalypse but really only profited from it, chances are you crossed it.

    He insists that Redeker's lifelong jihad against emotion was the only way to protect his sanity from the hatred and brutality he witnessed on a daily basis. (5.1.20)

    Redeker seems to be void of all emotion and humanity and love. But maybe his plan showed the ultimate love, because he had to make the hardest decision to save millions by killing thousands (or save billions by killing millions; we're not really clear on the numbers here). It's, erm, tough love.

    All I could think of was getting out of there, far enough away to maybe avoid the nuclear blast. I still feel guilty about those thoughts, caring only for myself in a moment like that. (5.5.17)

    Survivor's guilt could be seen as a form of love—a love for your fellow man that turns to guilt when you feel you failed them by surviving.

    When I heard about it, something snapped. Like the time I made my first Super 8 short and screened it for my parents. This I can do, I realized. This enemy I can fight! (6.4.3)

    Here, we see art as a product of Roy Elliot's desire to do something loving for his fellow man. Art becomes literally life sustaining in this chapter.

    Maybe she was just a scared, lonely voice that did what she could to help another scared lonely voice from ending up like her. Who cares who she was, or is? She was there when I needed her, and for the rest of my life, she'll always be with me. (6.5.108)

    Is this a stranger showing love for Eliopolis, or Eliopolis showing love for herself? We can't say, so that'll depend on you're reading of that particular story.

    In a sense, it is they who are ruled by us, instead of the other way around, and they must sacrifice everything, everything, to shoulder the weight of this godlike burden. Otherwise, what's the flipping point? Just scrap the whole damn tradition, roll out the bloody guillotine, and be done with it altogether. (7.1.41)

    Remember how love of a nation can sometimes be crippling? Well, here's your counter example: sometimes can even be worth self-sacrifice.

    Who could suffer that kind of loss and come out in one piece? Anyone who could wouldn't have made a handler in the first place. That's what made us our own breed, that ability to bond so strongly with something that's not even our own species. (8.3.39)

    Got to give some time for love of the fuzzy-wuzzy-cuddly cuties that are the dogs… sorry don't know what came over us there. But seriously, we've got to give props to the love between a dog and his handler.