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Sunrise over Hero City

National identity and portrayal of Americanness in Max Brooks' novel World War Z

Karoliina Hannonen

Kandidaatintutkielma
10.12.2013
Kirjallisuus
Oulun yliopisto
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Table of contents
1 INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................................3
2 ON POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION..............................................................................................4
2.1 The evolution of the zombie...............................................................................................4
2.2 World War Z as a post-apocalyptic novel...........................................................................7
3 NATIONAL IDENTITY....................................................................................................................8
3.1 Defining the nation.............................................................................................................8
3.2 Problems of national identity............................................................................................10
3.3 Some words on nationalism..............................................................................................11
4 PAST AND PRESENT....................................................................................................................11
4.1 National history and identity.............................................................................................12
4.2 Real Americans: dystopia and pre-war Americanness..................................................13
5 IDENTITY IN TRANSITION........................................................................................................15
5.1 Under the common flag of survival..............................................................................16
5.2 Victory at Avalon: utopia in dystopia............................................................................17
5.3 The rise of individualism..................................................................................................18
6 THE G NATION..............................................................................................................................20
7 POST-WAR IDENTITIES...............................................................................................................22
7.1 Contagious democracy......................................................................................................22
7.2 Citizens of the world.........................................................................................................23
8 NATIONALISM IN WORLD WAR Z..............................................................................................24
9 CONCLUSION...............................................................................................................................25

References..........................................................................................................................................27

1 INTRODUCTION
Modern popular fiction has been overrun by the living dead. They have taken over genres from
horror to romance they have even managed to retroactively invade 19 th century romantic fiction.
The undead appear in numerous forms in literature, film and television. Currently, one of the most
popular examples of the resurrected is the zombie, a walking, mindless corpse. As a synthesis of
Haitian voodoo mythology and man-eating monsters of Arabic origin, the zombies have a very
interesting, wide-ranging history. There is one thing that most modern avatars of the zombie have in
common, though: they walk, slouch or crawl in hordes. Zombies form impersonal masses that
eradicate any notion of individual identity. And the loss of identity is one of the greatest culturally
expressed fears of our time.
Though zombie fiction is, generally, considered a low and vulgar form of popular fiction, it is
actually very attuned to the times and deals with topical subjects. In addition, popular fiction has
contact with the broadest audience and is therefore closely connected to the currently predominant
discourse in our culture. Therefore, this discourse should be studied through popular fiction, before
all. Roger Luckhurst argues, Popular fiction is not a symptom of the decline of the public sphere. It
is, rather, one of the most vibrant places to find arguments about the nature and limits of the
public. (Luckhurst 2012: 84)
Max Brooks (1972), a former Saturday Night Live screenwriter and the only son of the director Mel
Brooks, wrote his first book The Zombie Survival Guide (2003) in a mock-serious tone as a gentle
satire of American post-war survivalism. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2006)
converses on far graver themes. It is a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction that deals with issues of
identity in a world that is being overrun by zombies. Ultimately, the novel describes how American
national consciousness is reawoken and recreated through a global catastrophe. It has no single
protagonist; it consists of a number of individual stories that are tinted with apparent Hollywood
blockbuster patriotism.
World War Z is also a very global book and broadly discusses international relations under harsh
conditions. The construction of national identity and the essence of a nation in general are central
themes of the novel. Particularly interesting is how Americanness is portrayed in relation to other
nations. The author shows how the concept of nationality tightropes between collectivism and
common history and the fates and goals of individual persons. At the same time, it criticizes the
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present-day state of Western culture and calls for global awareness. It is an ode to individualism, to
people who will not yield.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the factors that contribute to the construction of national, and
particularly American, identity in Max Brooks' novel. American identity will be presented in
comparison to other nations before, during and after the Zombie War. Ultimately, aspects of global
identity and post-nationalism will be examined.
2 ON POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION
The term post-apocalyptic fiction covers countless versions of the end of the world as we know it.
Stories of the apocalypse have been told since before writing was invented, though the tone and
form of the narration has varied greatly over centuries. In its most basic sense, post-apocalyptic
fiction refers to descriptions of a milieu in which, be it due to a global natural catastrophe or some
kind of a religious Armageddon, the society as it is known today has collapsed. It is typical for
religious myths that while most of the world's population is decimated, a fraction of chosen
people, or a group that has chosen to live the rightful way continues to live in a better world or a
paradise. In 20th and 21st century post-apocalyptic fiction, however, the focus is usually solely on
survival: how humanity survives in a world that has become hostile towards its formerly dominant
species, and what kind of a form the society takes in this new world. Post-apocalyptic fiction does
not necessarily imply the extinction of the human species; it considers the impact of a sudden,
global change in the structure of the world and acquires very different forms and meanings
depending on the message and the context of the work.
A significant subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction is the zombie apocalypse, in which (typically,
but not always) resurrected bodies pose a threat to the very existence of the human kind. Though it
has its roots in a frequently much-despised form of popular culture, the Gothic (Luckhurst 2012:
72) it tends to also consider serious social issues and, as all imagined apocalypses, the deepest and
most contemporary fears of our culture.
2.1 The evolution of the zombie
The word zombie has its origin in Africa. The Nzambi was a religious being and and object of
religious faith recognized by some Bantu and Bankongo tribes as late as in the 1920s. (Boone 2011:
50-51) This God-like figure was transferred to the Caribbean with the slaves brought from Africa
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during the African diaspora and gained a new form, zombi. Later, as African religious beliefs
started colliding with Western influences and a more empirical world view started gaining
influence, the essence of the zombi was altered. Eventually, it came to represent a person with no
internal consciousness and independent will this was the Haitian zombie, a negation of the self.
(Boone 2011: 53) As the concept of the zombie was introduced to Western culture sometime in 19 th
century, that is how it was understood: a person whose defining trait was the complete absence of
the person, the identity and the self. It was an embodiment of otherness. (ibid. 54) Kevin Boone
argues that this shift in the zombie's nature also represents shift in Western thinking. In Africa, the
forefather of the zombie was an object of faith, an external being that could invade human bodies.
When rationalism took over in Western philosophy, also the zombie became a representation of,
loss of internal reliability, a loss of being, which results in a human shell occupied by nothingness
(ibid. 55).
Moreover, Sarah Juliet Lauro and Deborah Christie divide the evolution of the zombie during the
20th and the 21st century into three stages: the classic mindless corpse, the relentless instinct-driven
newly dead and the millennial voracious and fast-moving predator (Christie & Lauro 2011: 4). The
modern zombie, according to Boone, was born at the end stages of World War II, or more
specifically, on August 6, 1945 as the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
The broad cultural disillusionment that followed from this resulted in a shift away from modernism.
(Boone 2011: 55) In a postnuclear world, the self's greatest fear suddenly became being irreversibly
lost, becoming absorbed in otherness. Consequently, the zombie myth took a shift from a mindless
creature and a temperate worker into the direction of the traditional ghoul, a man-eating monster of
Arabic origin. Boone calls this moronic yet aggressive creature the zombie ghoul 1 (ibid. 56). This
is also the kind of zombie that became known in popular film and pulp fiction. Yet the global
zombie mania in popular culture all but represents the issues the consumers were facing in a rapidly
changing society.
Zombies became global in Richard Matheson's 1954 novel, I am Legend. Though similar subjects
had been examined in the Gothic the best example of this being Frankenstein author Mary
Shelley's The Last Man (published already in 1826) that tells the story of a lone survivor in a postapocalyptic world resulted in the reinvention of the zombie. Interestingly, Matheson's novel does
not feature zombies at all but speaks of vampires but, as Peter Dendle sharply notes, we know a
zombie when we see one (Christie 2011: 71). Relevant for the genre is the near annihilation of the
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In World War Z, the words zombie and ghoul are used as synonyms.

human species by undead creatures.2 I am Legend has been filmed under several titles over the
years. It was also the starting point for George Romero's iconic film Night of the Living Dead, in
which Romero practically reinvents the zombie (Luckhurst 2012: 76). Zombies were now about
masses, before all.
20th century apocalypse visions, as any proper dystopia, were often completely without hope. They
have often been interpreted through post-humanism, examining different possibilities of replacing
human societies, worlds where homo sapiens is no longer the dominant species or where the society
has evolved beyond humanity. (Christie 2011: 68) Nonetheless, the subject of this essay can
scarcely be seen as post-human. In contemporary, 21st century post-apocalyptic fiction, a certain
element of religious mythology seems to be gaining popularity again: it is typical that a number of
people survive the end of the world and manage to maintain some sense of a society, which might
even be fortified through the hardships of a now-hostile world.
Margo Collins and Elson Bond suggest that the modern pop-culture zombie has evolved further
over the years. First brainless allegories of the consumerist society, then expressions of anxiety over
the loss of individual identity in mass culture, zombies have become something entirely else. (Bond
& Collins 2011: 187) According to them, The new millennium zombie described here often
challenges audiences to become more fully 'human': more reflective, and simultaneously more
cooperative and more self-reliant. (ibid. 188) Thus, new millennium post-apocalyptic fiction tends
to present a more hopeful tone than e.g. Matheson's sketch of a world without humans. Max Brooks'
novel, so Bond and Collins, focuses on the discovery of a common, even improved humanity
(ibid.). Hence, though a zombie apocalypse certainly places a menace over an individual's
identity, it actually winds up reinforcing it.
As can be seen here, the evolution of the zombie myth also follows the development of Western
thought in the 20th century and reacts to significant cultural and political events that alter the
2 Matheson's protagonist, Robert Neville, is the sole survivor in a world where a viral pandemic has caused the
uttermost of humanity to turn into daylight-fearing undead that crave for human blood. Neville's days are filled with
experimenting on the undead in order to find a possible cure and, at the same time, carefully eradicating the monsters,
one by one. In the end of the novel, Neville must accept that vampires have become the new dominant species on the
planet. Humanity is doomed. However, out of the apocalyptic chaos, vampires have started building a new society, one
that is devoted to hunting out and destroying Robert Neville, the abnormality who vigorously murders their kind.
(Christie 2011: 75) Neville has indeed become the classical, lone Gothic monster, whose tragedy lies within the fact that
he still believes to be doing the right thing.

zeitgeist. Zombie fiction is actually an accurate reflection of its time and investigates contemporary
questions of, among others, self and identity. Its transformation is in tight connection with the
development of (especially American) popular sphere. Zombies are inside the popular culture in
various forms, from comic to tragic, from literature to television. Thus, zombie fiction is a relevant
part of the literary canon of the 20th and 21st century and is by no means to be overlooked in
research.
2.2 World War Z as a post-apocalyptic novel
World War Z is a fictional post-war chronicle of the events that almost lead to the utter
demolishment of human kind, known, among other titles, as The Zombie War (Brooks 2006: 1,
from here, WWZ). It is narrated as a collection of document material, interviews which the narrator
has collected from war veterans and survivors from all over the world. At the time of narration, the
world has been at peace about as long as we were at war (WWZ: 2), though it is to be questioned
what peace means in this context, as there are still a number of heavily contaminated White
Zones. The unnamed implied author of the book refers to his work as an attempt to give the future
generations an opportunity to maintain the human factor (ibid.) in studying the events of the
Zombie War. However, instead of a collective human factor, it is individualism and hence also
questions of identity that gain the most significant role in the narrative.
The documents start in a distant part of China, where Patient Zero, a 12-year-old boy, has caught a
mysterious illness on an illegal diving trip into a water reservoir of a dam that once destroyed the
village of the boy's ancestry. The infection, which turns humans into mindless predators, spreads
under the parts of the population that nobody bothers to keep track of: peasants, refugees, illegal
immigrants and, not entirely unrelated to the actions of the Chinese government, through black
market organ transplants. People do not stay contained within geographical borders, concrete or
imagined, but migrate, and before governments react, the local outbreak becomes a global
pandemic.
It is the global panic, containment of information by authorities and ignorance of global events that
allow the curious illness to spread. When governments finally take action, the future of the human
species is already seriously threatened. Radical actions are required to save humanity: the South
African war strategist Paul Redeker develops an evacuation plan that, while securing the survival of
our species, is so cruel that Redeker loses his mind after handing his plan to the authorities.

After successful evacuation, people begin to construct a war-time society, a utopia inside a
dystopia. As nations are constrained within certain areas and global communication is restrained,
bonds within nations are reinforced. Finally, in a global conference, it is decided that the human
race go on the offensive. The rest of the book describes the systematic reclaiming of contaminated
territory, ending in an image of a few soldiers watching sunrise over New York, now dubbed Hero
City, on the last day of the war.
World War Z is a modern portrayal of a global catastrophe that also discusses international relations.
As Bond and Collins note, the world as the survivors know it has ended, but the zombies have not
won (Bond & Collins 2011: 188). It is thus one of the hopeful apocalypses described by the
previously mentioned. Matters of nationality, identity and global mass culture rise into surface and,
ultimately, of a dystopia becomes a utopia at least from the perspective of the Western world.
Essentially, the driving force behind the apocalypse, i.e. the zombies, could be approached like
any natural catastrophe they are, as already concluded, an impersonal mass. Nevertheless, a
zombie as the negation of the self is also a mirror through which we can reflect on our own identity.
A zombie's national identity will be more closely examined in Chapter 6.
3 NATIONAL IDENTITY
Historically, the concept of a nation has been defined in countless ways. In a sense it can be argued
that a substantial national identity did not exist before the Middle Ages, as modern nation states
gradually started to form. For example, the cultural area we now know as the ancient Greece
actually covered a number of small city states, each with their own constitution and culture. Still,
there were factors that connected and connect these city states into a one entity in people's minds,
factors that already in that time made the Greeks Greek. Anthony D. Smith calls these connecting
factors with the common term ethnie. (Smith 1991: 19) It is undeniable that, in a 21 st century
society, national identity is ever-relevant and ubiquous. Yet how are nations formed, and how do
people come to identify with a certain national character?
3.1 Defining the nation
Hans Manfred Bock decribes a contrast between a subjective and an objective, or, in other words,
voluntarist and naturalist understanding of the nation. According to the former, a 'nation' is a
historical and cultural construction which also requires some conscious political influence in order
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to emerge. In the latter interpretation, however, the appearance of a nation depends on a natural
sense of belonging, a we-feel which is based on ethnic, linguistic or historical unity or similarity.
(Bock 2000: 11-12) This poses an important question: does the state create the nation or the nation
the state? Is a nation something concrete, or merely a chain of self-inflicted stereotypes? It is clear
that the concepts of state and nation are intimately connected. However, there are several theories of
the nature of the relationship.
Smith points out the difference between a Western, civic and a non-Western ethnic model of the
nation. A nation can be defined, as a community of people obeying the same laws and institutions
within given territory (Smith 1991: 9). A nation is connected to a certain territory, a historic land,
where a certain group of people has housed over generations. As a second element of the civic
model, Smith presents the patria, a community of laws and institutions with a single political will
(ibid. 10). In other words, one central constitution and a government to minister it. This, in turn,
results in certain legal equality for the citizens of a nation. Finally, Smith writes of a measure of
common culture and ideology within a civic nation. Nations are, culture communities, whose
members were united, if not made homogenous, by common historical memories, myths, symbols
and traditions (ibid. 11). This Western model is consistent with Bock's volitionist definition of the
nation: a nation by choice.
The ethnic conception of the nation, however, focuses on the origin of a community. Whether a
member of a certain ethnic group migrated or stayed in the community of their birth, they remain
members of that group regardless of one's own choices. Smith defines this understanding of a nation
as, first and foremost a community of common descent (ibid.). In a way, this non-Western model
defies the concept or at least the meaning of a Western nation state. In the Western model, a nation
is primarily seen as a political community; in the non-Western one, as genealogical.
In World War Z, a nation is mostly seen as a political community, probably mainly because of its
focus on American national character: the USA, as we know, are not bound together by common
ancestry but are rather built on a common constitution and common dreams of generations of
immigrants. It is indeed an excellent example of a nation by choice. Therefore it is interesting to
study what it is to identify as an American.
Nontheless, the non-Western conception of a nation is also addressed in the book. Ancestry, or
ethnie, is both a separating and a uniting factor. This can be seen especially well in war-time South
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Africa, where Apartheid traumata slowly move out of the way of a new political society. On the
other hand, at the first stages of the war, the Israeli government calls out a national quarantine and
offers
asylum, no questions asked, to any foreign-born Jew, any foreigner of Israeli-born parents,
any Palestinian living in the formerly occupied territories, and any Palestinian whose family
had once lived within the borders of Israel. (WWZ: 47)
Here, the belonging to a nation is not restricted by a certain political society or geographical area.
The relationship between a nation and its historic land is complex, so differences of e.g. religion are
forgotten. A belongingness to a historic land is presupposed. Still, it remains a matter of choice for
the ethnic Israeli and the Palestinians whether or not to reinforce this identity. The narrative takes a
step into the direction of the ethnic explanation of nationality, showing some early signs of Israeli
pan-nationalism or even post-nationalism.
3.2 Problems of national identity
On that account, what factors contribute to the matter that people identify themselves within a
political, social or historical construction we call a nation? As already noted, an understanding of a
'nation' is multi-dimensional and not necessarily connected to a certain state. Based on both the
civic and the ethnic model of a nation, Smith lists five central elements of national identity:
1. an historic community, or homeland
2. common myths and historical memories
3. a common, mass public culture
4. common legal rights and duties for all members
5. a common economy with territorial mobility for members (Smith 1991: 14)
In World War Z, the traditional nation state temporarily falls apart. Any common culture and as well
as legal rights are set aside. However, while the humanity is in asylum, nations are built up again
and, ultimately, the historic land is reacquired. National identity is therefore constructed out of
loyalty to a certain constitution and national symbols. The importance of a homeland as a nation's
natural territory is also highlighted. Nevertheless, it can be thought that in the turmoils of the
Zombie War, the understanding of nation slightly changes its form and meaning. During the war,
many kinds of new societies are formed based on not political unity or common heritage, but
survival. National identity slowly becomes more fluid. Still, some common factors that connect the
different ethnicities during a zombie diaspora remain. For example, the American refugees in
Cuba, the Nortecubanos, form a society of their own that is also affected by their American origin.
In this way, the author asks what parts of national identity are sustainable.

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Smith writes,
A national identity is fundamentally multi-dimensional; it can never be reduced to a single
element, even by particular factions and nationalists, nor can it be easily or swiftly induced
in a population by artificial means. (Smith 1991: 14)
However, in Max Brooks' novel, warfare is consciously used to reinforce national identity. This
leads to a certain element of nationalism, which will be briefly considered next.
3.3 Some words on nationalism
Nationalism in its most basic form means the presupposition that the humanity is divisible into
nations, each with its own national character and allegiance to a nation. (Smith 1991: 40-41) It
signifies breaking the world down into us and them or, like in the case of World War Z, into
us, them and them, the others, the zombies. However the term nationalism carries various
meanings.
As Smith explains, nationalism can be synonymous to e.g. national consciousness. (ibid. 72) Here,
however, it will rather be examined as an ideology. The cultural doctrine central to nationalism,
according to Smith, states that all political and social power comes back to the nation. Also, selfactualization and freedom depend on identification with a certain nation. To maintain peace and
justice, nations must also be free and secure. (ibid. 74) Hence, nationalism as an ideology seems to
presuppose some kind of a naturalist nation.
The lexical item patriotism is often used synonymously with nationalism; however patriotism
tends to have more gentle nyances. It is rather connected to valuing the virtues of an individual,
existent nation, national romanticism and national nostalgia than a systematic cultural doctrine.
Still, like nationalism, patriotism is not in-born (Bock 2000: 21), but learned. World War Z is
possibly nationalist and definitely patriotic in its message. What forms this nationalism takes will be
further speculated in Chapter 8.
4 PAST AND PRESENT
What kind of elements determine national identity in World War Z, then? Before the beginning of
the war, national identities are to a great extent defined through a nation's common history and past.
It is shown how common, national traumata have brought nations closer together and therefore are
an inseparable part of national character. When national identity is jeopardized, in other words the
nation is at war, this kind of traumata rise back to surface.
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4.1 National history and identity


The presence of national history in defining national identity in the novel is apparent. For example,
both pre-war and post-war Russia is heavily marked by its Soviet past. Though post-war Russia is
all but a totalitarian theocracy, the Holy Russian Empire, their culture shows excessive respect to
their forefathers and not without a reason, as old Soviet weaponry is their main defense in the war
against the undead. An old poster on the wall of Sergei Ryzhkov, a war-time religious reformer,
shows an image of an old Soviet soldier reaching down from heaven to hand a crude submachine
gun to a grateful young Russian (WWZ: 361).
The suspicious national character of the Israeli, which is mainly due to their history and the Jewish
diaspora, is what prompts them to declare voluntary quarantine in the early stages of the war: after
almost allowing the Arabs to finish what Hitler started if nine intelligence analysts came to the
same conclusion, it was the duty of the tenth to disagree (WWZ: 43). As already explained, the
Israeli also welcome their Arab brethren back to the land of their forefathers. Unfortunately, the
repatriation of Palestinians gains little popularity among the Jewish population, which is one of the
main reasons why the Israeli society starts heading towards a civil war, where the Jewish turn on
their kin (ibid. 54).
In some cases, issues of identity arise from an attempt to escape national traumata. As their nation's
future is threatened, the South African authorities know who to turn to: the Apartheid time war
strategist who revised Plan Orange, the ultimate survival strategy for the Afrikaner people
(WWZ: 134).
While the German version of the Redeker plan is being put into action, Philip Adler, a former West
German soldier, depicts his moral concerns on the background of both the Cold War separation of
the German nation and the national guilt of the Second World War. Now, I am a good soldier, but I
am also West German. /--/ in the East, they were told that they were not responsible for the
atrocities of the Second World War. (WWZ: 142) In contrast, Adler's identity is so heavily affected
by the guilt his nation's past inflicts that he can barely function, We were taught since birth to bear
the burden of our grandfathers' shame (ibid.). In this way, factors that once set a nation apart
become important elements of one's identity. Adler refuses to succumb to his superior's orders. I
wasn't going to just goose-step my way into Hell like some good Hitler Jugend. I'd show him and
everyone else what it meant to be a real Deutsche Soldat. (WWZ: 144-145)
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National traumata are therefore an inalienable part of one's identity and influence the way people
and nations function at the face of war. Interestingly enough, however, no such traumata are
mentioned in reference to America before the final stages of the war. In fact, it seems there is no
national history of America at all. As the American president puts it, We don't have the luxury of
old-world pillars. We don't have a common heritage. We don't have a millennia of history. (WWZ:
185)
In one interview, a mercenary describes a group of American celebrities who have set up a
heavily protected safe haven against the zombies and are broadcasting live on webcast. Just before
civilians start to assault the fort, the interviewee overhears a Russian lifeguard mumbling,
Romanovs (WWZ: 109). This is a reference to the Russian revolution in 1917 and the Tsar family
that was arrested and shot by the Bolsheviks. Apparently this is a lesson Americans have yet to
learn; and the modern-day imperial family are the public figures who ignore the people's needs
while ensuring high-profile exposure (WWZ: 107) for themselves. The Russians have learned
from their past. America, however, seems to be sleeping. On the other hand, a kind of a turning
point can be seen here. The civilians' cravings and the global panic can no longer be ignored.
4.2 Real Americans: dystopia and pre-war Americanness
Dystopia roughly translates to a bad place. A dystopia or an anti-utopia is the opposite of an
ideal state, an imaginary, warning example of the direction the real society is heading. (Kivist
2007: 23) As different utopias have been described since stories have been told, dystopia as a
literary genre did not start to raise its head until the 20th century. A typical dystopia is set in an urban
milieu, where nature has been destroyed or made hostile. Also, a dystopic society is often a
monarchy or an oligarchy lead by a character or characters who believe that the conditions are at
their best. (ibid. 24) The best known example of the genre is George Orwell's 1984 (1949).
Sometimes, however, a dystopia is not to be told from utopia, or real life. In Aldous Huxley's Brave
New World (1932), the author presents a view of the future that is shockingly accurate. Interestingly
enough, there are also clear parallels between Huxley's dystopic prediction and 21 st century
American society as described in World War Z.
According to Huxley, men are not enslaved in totalitarian countries quite as much as in the wealthy
Western states. In his opinion, an individual's voluntary indifference is worse than total control from
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the state. Generally, the agenda of a Western society is that an individual should not speak out their
opinions too much. In Huxleys fable of Brave New World, human beings have been reduced to
products. Through gene technology, humans are predestined to a certain position in the society.
Through systematic brainwashing, they are also made unable to think outside their predestined
frame of reference. They are seen, not as total personalities, but as the embodiments of economic
functions or, when they are not at work, as irresponsible seekers of entertainment (Huxley 1972:
39). Humans have become passive consumers rather than conscious actors, and thus, their existence
has ceased to have any point or meaning (ibid.).
Similarly, as unsettling news of the African rabies, as the zombie virus was called at the early
stages of the pandemic, start to appear, the American architect Mary Jo Miller is more worried
about car payments, a broken pool and an ill pet fish than global events. She does not bother to
follow the news; they depress her. (WWZ: 80) Her daily life is so filled with material goods and
maintaining her standard of living that there is no time to worry. There is enough information on the
oncoming global threat, but Miller and her family choose to ignore it.
Miller's children, however, show some signs of concern. They start having trouble sleeping and
getting into fights. For that, Miller also has a solution: drugs. In Brave New World, people remain
passive with the help of a chemical compound called Soma. (Huxley 1972: 99) The daily Soma
ration was an insurance against personal maladjustment, social unrest and the spread of subversive
ideas. (ibid. 100) In addition to several kinds of psychoactive substances, the Millers are all on
Phalanx, a drug that supposedly gives protection against the African rabies. It is marketed with the
catchphrase, Piece of Phalanx, a peace of mind (WWZ: 82) it stands for conscious relocation
and repression of global and personal concerns using both chemical and psychological persuasion.
What the Millers do not know, however, is that Phalanx is actually nothing but a placebo.
The state and the media cooperate to cover up the fact that the only known vaccination against the
mysterious illness does not actually work; it is to each one's benefit that the civilians remain calm
and passive. We knew Phalanx was a placebo, and we were grateful for it. It calmed people down
and let us do our job. (WWZ: 75) The media, on the other hand, are interested in making profit on
the passive consumers of their products, not disclosing the truth, You mean those networks that are
owned by some of the largest corporations in the world, corporations that would have taken a
nosedive if another panic hit the stock market? (WWZ: 77)

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The grimness of Huxley's imaginary future lies in the culture shock that comes about when the
society is entered by an outsider that has grown up in a society much like our own, learned different
moral values and the ability to dream. Huxley's protagonist cannot handle the pressure but ends his
own life the situation within the society does not change. In his essay Brave New World Revisited
(1958), Huxley calls for a revolution, something radical to wake up the society that is slowly
becoming a nation of apathetic consumers. Something radical needs to happen in order to change
the course of events. And what would accomplish that better than a global disaster? In World War Z,
the passive society is stirred by a distant threat becoming very real.
According to Roger Luckhurst, a zombie is a figure of insatiable mass consumption, anonymous,
stupid, shuffling masses, marked by 'numbness or volitionless vacancy' (Luckhurst 2012: 77). In
his opinion, on a deeper level, the whole genre of zombie apocalypses represents the modern culture
of consummation and zombification of the nation. The zombies are us, the masses. (ibid. ) 21 st
century media culture i.e. the modern public sphere is no longer about discussion but passive
consummation. As Huxley writes, In public and private life, it often happens that there is simply
no time to collect the relevant facts or weigh their significance. (Huxley 1972: 53) In a way, a
zombie apocalypse is therefore a reflection of the endless flow of information that turns citizens
into philosophical zombies a metaphor of modern-day Western culture.
What comes to the Millers, they wake of their drug-induced stupor as a zombie plunges in through
their living room window. Mary Jo Miller suddenly turns from a consumer into an actor, saves her
children from the ravaging ghoul and runs. Later, she is shown as the first mayor of a post-war
utopia.
5 IDENTITY IN TRANSITION
We didn't leave America. America left us. (WWZ: 188)
With central law and order gone and the historic land lost, the world is missing some of the most
central postulates of the civic understanding of a nation. There is little public culture nationally and
globally, as modern media of communication have stopped working and all resources must be
concentrated on the purpose of survival. In addition, through the brutality of the Redeker Plan,
nations have also, in a sense, lost their humanity. What is it that keeps nations attached to each other
when they seem to have nothing in common but the horrendous losses and constant danger they
face? Societies must be reconstructed and some order reacquired before the historic land can be
15

reclaimed. As the American president puts it, Our country only exists because people believed in it,
and if it wasn't strong enough to protect us from this crisis, then what future could it ever hope to
have? (WWZ: 185) In other words, this is where a nation's inner unity is measured and where its
future is determined. This chapter focuses on the processes that alter national identity and
Americanness while the world is in asylum.
5.1 Under the common flag of survival
After the Redeker Plan and its various versions 3 have been globally applied, the remains of nations
start to build up their societies again. The Redeker Plan, however, leaves out of the question the vast
majority of the surviving humanity, those who were not evacuated. Fundamentally, the central idea
of the Redeker Plan was that not everyone could be saved. Instead, it focused on evacuating those
who were essential for the survival of the nation or the race. The rest would have to be sacrificed or,
in essence, used as a bait to keep the zombie hordes from pursuing those who were to be rescued.
While for example the USA keep delivering resources to these Green, Red and Blue Zones (WWZ:
212), most of the refugees are forced to find their own way of surviving. This results in the
emergence of a number of war-time societies.
The reader gets to witness the birth of several new national identities, as a good example of this, the
partially waterborne community of refugees in Manihi, French Polynesia. It is described by a
Chinese newcomer followingly, It was a new society, a new nation, refugees from all over the
world uniting under the common flag of survival. (WWZ: 305) Instead of money, people trade
resources, and the position of a person in the society is defined by the amount of resources they
have. Instead of common ethnicity or folklore, people are bound together by their common need for
safety. On the other hand, it can be seen how an artificial nation's (much like the USA) national
history is being built on, firstly, common ambitions, but secondly, on common traumata. A global
catastrophe, in other words, gives birth to new national identities.
Amongst this new kind of nationalism, however, there is an aspect of global mass culture as well.
Radio Free Earth is a global radio channel that broadcasts from a former Soviet vessel in numerous
languages, spreading confirmed information and fighting misinformation in order to secure the
survival of the human species. Cultural misconceptions are addressed specifically, on the first hand
the continuing pilgrimacy to the Ganges, on the other hand an American religious sect that believes
3 Interestingly, each country must have their own version and name for the South African plan, e.g. the Prochnow Plan
in Germany (WWZ: 145).

16

that the rapture has come. (WWZ: 240-241) As Radio Free Earth is basically the only functioning
mass medium, it implies that this global network may be interpreted as a first glimpse into an
identity as a world citizen rather than a citizen of specific nation. The survival of the species
therefore also requires a certain element of post-nationalism.
A change in the nature of nationality can be seen here. Of identity becomes survival technique. The
belongingness to a group or a nation is suddenly a matter of life and death. Nation becomes a
construction of necessity rather than one of conscious political or personal choice. This way, the
narrative takes a step towards the naturalist understanding of nation. Moreover, in a war-time,
survival oriented society, where everything must be rebuilt from scratch, one can truly achieve the
American Dream, which will be considered next.
5.2 Victory at Avalon: utopia in dystopia
As already concluded, the pre-war American society could be described through the conventions of
dystopia. During the war, however, the societal circumstances give way to the pursuit of utopia. A
utopia or a no-place is the opposite of dystopia, a description of a better society, a perfect place.
Though the emergence of utopistic thinking required a certain secularisation, utopia is often
understood as a paradise on Earth. The meaning of utopia is the dream of a better life. (Rahkonen
1996: 37) This dream can be of a perfect state, of a world without violence, or a world where
humanity is one with nature. According to Ernst Bloch, utopia is the mode of hope in social history
(ibid. 41).
A well-known everyday example of utopistic thinking is the American Dream, an ideology that has
guided the development of the American society through centuries. As we have seen, the USA were
put together not of common history or ethnicity, but common hopes for the future, much as the
artificial societies that emerge during the Zombie War. Instead of shared ethnic background, the
American nation was built on hope.
On a concrete level, the American Dream may mean a number of things: financial stability, good
life, working for oneself. (Samuel 2012: 1) On a fundamental level, it implies that our station of
life is earned rather than inherited (ibid. 3). It means that every person has the equal right to work
for their personal dream, construct their own utopia. The central idea that the USA were built upon
is the pursuit of happiness.

17

In World War Z, the American people has become passive therefore, this pursuit of happiness does
not happen. While the country is in asylum, however, the American national spirit rises into surface
again. After running from her suburban home with her children, Mary Jo Miller (see Chapter 3.2)
puts her abilities into action in order to construct a'New Community' for the 'New America'
(WWZ: 79), a completely self-sustained city with absolute protection from the threat of the living
dead so to say, a utopistic society inside a dystopia.
In fact, Brooks consciously plays with the conventions of utopia. During the Great Panic as the
American nation flees north, a group of college students decide to stay behind and turn their college
building into something resembling a Medieval city (WWZ: 201). At its best, this society of three
hundred refugees holds off as much as 10,000 zombies. The famous war-time director Roy Elliot
makes an inspiring documentary film about them, a film he names Victory at Avalon (ibid.)
Avalon is the name of one of the best known mythological utopias in the Western world 4. Elliot's
film is later successfully used to raise the morale of the nation in asylum.
The war-time USA in asylum can also be considered an organizational utopia. Though there are
little resources, they are organised to serve functionality. Though former societal classes have been
turned upside down and former executives and representatives are being taught to work by former
first-generation immigrants, they have begun to recieve satisfaction of what they do. 'You see those
shoes, I made them,' 'That sweater, that's my sheep's wool,' 'Like the corn? My garden.' (WWZ:
176) A utopia typically looks back in time; here, America has turned back to traditional values,
doing work that has a meaning. At the same time, the nation grows closer together as classes vanish.
Media are no longer merely consumed; they are consciously used to keep up the nation's morale.
Though questionable methods such as death penalty are still used to maintain peace, the pursuit of
happiness, the American Dream has reentered the nation's field of ideals. All we have is our hopes
and dreams. All we have are the dreams and promises that bind us together (WWZ: 185)
As the American nation decides to go on the offensive, the American national character is described
by an outsider, So typically Norteamericano, reaching for the stars with their asses still stuck in the
mud. (WWZ: 329) The tide has turned; America is finally awake.
5.3 The rise of individualism
Pre-war America is characterized by ignorance and faceless mass culture. In the course of the war,
4 However, in the narrative, the title is linked to a popular song by the British art rock band Roxy Music.

18

however, the individualistic nature of the American nations starts to rise to surface. The American
national character produces a notably high ratio of so called LaMOEs 5, sole survivors in heavily
infested zones. LaMOEs are focused on realizing their personal utopia and are not at all delighted to
be saved by the Army. As the human nations start to reclaim their territory, LaMOEs actually pose
a problem to the liberators, The ones we called LaMOEs, those were the ones who were a little too
used to being king. /--/ But I guess in their mind they were living the good life, and here we were to
take it all away. (WWZ: 393) In politically correct terms, LaMOEs are called Robinson Crusoes
another intertextual reference to a well-known utopia.
Nevertheless, the other extreme is also present: some people give up at the early stages of the war
and seek to identify with the enemy. This type of people are dubbed quislings by the war-time
society, after the Nazi-installed president of Norway during World War II 6. They started moving
like zombies, sounding like them, even attacking and trying to eat other people. (WWZ: 194)
Quislings succumb to the masses and become consumed; the zombies recognize them as humans
and attack regardless of how they act. The survivors of the Zombie War, however, are those who
will not succumb. Here, the apocalyptic description comes close to a classical New Jerusalem myth:
the people who have chosen to live the rightful way continue to live in a purified society.
The same trend continues in a global context. Interesting is how Western, low-context culture is
juxtaposed with Eastern, high-context ones. For example, Japanese culture is described as
collectivistic and at the same time, very exclusive. Kondo Tatsumi identifies himself as an
otaku, an outsider. He explains,
if I understand [American] culture correctly, individualism is something to be encouraged.
You revere the 'rebel,' the 'rogue,' those who stand proudly apart from the masses. For you,
individuality is a badge of honor. For us, it is a ribbon of shame. (WWZ: 252)
Tatsumi spends all his time on the Internet doing research on trivial subjects. As the war
approaches, he invests all his energy into studying the living dead. This vast amount of information
is what saves his life as Kyoto is overrun. However, Tatsumi feels disconnected of his own culture,
Strangely enough, what bothered me the most was that I didn't know any prayers for the dead. /--/
It was a shame, how out of touch I was with my heritage. (WWZ: 261)
Tatsumi is later supervised by Tomonaga Ijiro, a hibakusha or a survivor of the nuclear bomb the
5
6

19

Last Man on Earth.


Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) assisted the Nazis as they occupied Norwayin order to rule the Norwegian
government himself. He was executed at the end of the war. The term quisling has been used to describe any
person who collaborated with the Axis forces during World War II.

Americans dropped in Nagasaki in 1945. (WWZ: 267) In Japanese culture, he is considered unclean
and is doomed to live a life as a social outcast until the Zombie War changes the situation. His
strong survival instinct helps him fight the zombies. While most of Japan is completely overrun, he
and Tatsumi continue to purify the ground of their heritage,
We would care for [Japan], we would preserve her, we would annihilate the walking blight
that infested and defiled her and we would restore her beauty and purity to the day when her
children would return to her. (WWZ: 280)
In both of these cases, it is the rebel, the outsider, who survives. These are the people who are to
rebuild the Japanese society.
6 THE G NATION
A war is normally considered a conflict between nations, though in modern language, expressions
like war against terrorism have started to appear. However, a central postulate of the essence of a
war is that a nation and consequently its members' national identity is, in one way or another,
threatened. A zombie pandemic, on the other hand, is in its basics just that: a pandemic. It is a
natural catastrophe, and although particularly aggressive and devastating, it cannot be compared to
a war as there is no conscious force behind it. The original source of the zombie virus is never even
identified. Still, the book's title already contains a notion of a war. In a way, the zombies are
assumed a national identity.
This is, firstly, about keeping a nation's morale high. A natural catastophe cannot be defeated in the
traditional sense of the word. There are no victors in a global pandemic, only survivors. Here,
language is being consciously used to eliminate any martyre's morality among the citizens. At the
beginning stages of the catastrophe, while the authorities still believe that the epidemic can be
contained, it is simply referred to as the African rabies. As it becomes clear that armed forces are
needed, the U.S. Army starts showing off their full military might. The battle at Yonkers, organized
mainly for the sake of the media, is a devastating failure. After the Redeker Plan has been put in
action, however, there is a shift in the discourse that is used in referring to fighting the zombies, it
gave them a sense of individual pride to know they were making a clear, concrete contribution to
victory /--/ (WWZ: 176)
After the downfall at Yonkers, the authorities want a fresh start. The site of the first battle in the
attack phase of the war is Hope, New Mexico (WWZ: 339). The war is now about victory, not
merely about survival.
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As Luckhurst argues, the war against the dead can be interpeted as a war against the dullmindedness of modern mass culture and the degradation of public space. On the other hand, a war
as a concept requires some notion of national identity otherwise, there is no reason to fight for a
nation. Zombies must therefore be given a national identity, so humans can reflect on theirs. This
specifically speaks out to the American nation, which is presented as particularly ignorant in prewar conditions. War is needed to shake the basis of the late capitalist Huxleyan dystopia, and to
rebuild and reinforce national identity. As already concluded, national identity is partially build on
national traumata, which America seems to lack after the Zombie War, there are enough common
experiences to build upon.
A zombie, per se, has no consciousness and therefore no identity. In death, they lose any knowledge
of a historic land, common laws or rights. Their only uniting agenda is the need to feed on anything
that has a heartbeat. During the Great Panic, however, people desperately seek to identify with the
enemy, everyone was trying desperately to find some shred of connection to their enemy (WWZ:
242). As Collins and Bond conclude, To identify with the zombies rather than to contain and
destroy them proves fruitless. (Bond & Collins 2011: 194) Quislings are consumed by zombies
despite of their attempts to fit in. On the other hand, during the attack phase, some element of
identification is even required: the soldiers are told to, out G the G 7 (WWZ: 343), to act more
slowly and robotically than the zombies, in order to destroy them.
Like in traditional warfare, zombies are consciously dehumanized by giving them degrading
nicknames (like Japs for Japanese or Ivan for Russians), G or Zack in America,
Zedheads in the UK and Australia. This, however, is done for the sake of the humans, not to
agitate the enemy.
In a way, the zombies can be seen as an un-nation that threatens the very existence of national
identity, therefore forcing humans to fight for their belongingness to a nation. In combat, the
national armies proudly present their national symbols, not in order to intimidate the zombies but to
raise their own national spirit. The Brits would use bagpipes, the Chinese used bugles, the
Sou'fricans used to /--/ belt out these Zulu war chants. For [Americans], it was hard-core Iron
Maiden. (WWZ: 341)

21

G (ghoul): In this instance, an American military slang word for zombie.

Finally, considering the zombie pandemic a war puts the whole human race into the position of a
single nation, presuming a notion of global post-nationalism. Going on the offensive ends World
War Z as a war of everyone against everyone and turns it into a war of the humanity against the
inhuman. The Zombie War is, therefore, not only about reinforcing a national, but also a global
identity.
7 POST-WAR IDENTITIES
Post-war New York is renamed Hero City. It is not coincidende that this pre-war center of cultural
and economic wealth is thus juxtaposed with the concept of heroism; after all, the idea of an
American hero is tightly connected to the American Dream. As the success of Roy Elliot's films in
the novel's reality shows, heroes are needed to keep the home front functional. Also globally, We
[the French] needed heroes, new names and places to restore our pride. (WWZ: 387) In a post-war
world, heroes are made symbols of renewed nations.
7.1 Contagious democracy
The relationship between the central regime and the people is also examined in the course of the
war. Totalitarian or near-totalitarian states generally do not handle the war well: for example, after
the Chinese government has rejected the Redeker Plan and the country is being overrun, the people
start to rebel, which results in a civil war. The Chinese government, unlike e.g. the American one, is
presented as impersonal and distant all Chinese interviewees are on the revolutionists' side.
In contrast, Cuba, another country with a powerful central regime, is one of the definite winners of
the Zombie War (WWZ: 281). This is mostly because the Cuban government i.e. Fidel Castro know
how to make the best of the circumstances and also, when to step out. Before the war, Castro
manages to remain in power using the threat of the American influence, the Yankees have done this
to you, and without me, they would be storming our beaches even now! (ibid.) Cuba accepts a
number of, among others, American refugees. These are later integrated into the society as the so
called Nortecubanos, who will gladly take the jobs the Cubans no longer want to do. The economy
flourishes. However, the Cubans also acquire something else from the Nortecubanos. Democracy
indeed seems to be a contagious disease,
You couldn't see this infection at first, not when we were still under siege. /--/ People began
to think more boldly, talk more boldly. Slowly, the seeds began to take root. (WWZ: 286)
Under the influence of the Nortecubanos, Cuba indeed becomes a capitalist democracy. The

22

American national spirit spreads and gives rise to new or reinforced identities.
We helped them reclaim their nation, and they helped us reclaim theirs. They showed us the
meaning of democracy... freedom, not just in vague, abstract terms, but on a very real,
individually human level. (WWZ: 286)
On the other hand, the fate of North Korea, a totalitarian state in the true sense of the word, is left as
a mysterious blank. The whole nation disappears, and no one dares to enter their territory in fear of
nuclear traps. (WWZ: 246)
Smith writes that religious reforms are a form of national self-renewal (Smith 1991: 23). This is
what happens in war-time Russia. As already mentioned, post-war Russia is a theocracy. However,
violations of human rights that used to be conducted in the name of the state continue now in the
name of God. On a fundamental level, there is no change in the Russian national character; it is
merely reinforced, reinvented.
The war drove us back to our roots, made us remember what it means to be Russian. -- For
the first time in almost a hundred years, we can finally warm ourselves in the protective fist
of a Caesar! (WWZ: 407)
War-time America also wishes itself a Caesar, but the American president insists on maintaining
democracy, [The President] knew that America wanted a Caesar, but to be one would mean the end
of America. (WWZ: 185) As seen from the fate of Cuba, the countries that embrace democracy are
also the ones that recover from the war the best. Here, the author shows how American values are
made to last. The President knows that freedom, indeed, is contagious.
7.2 Citizens of the world
Is there a fundamental change in national identity on a global level, then? We have already
concluded that the American nation has reawoken to the basis of their national identity, the
American Dream. Russia has also returned to her roots, though the image given of the post-war
conditions in Siberia is not at all as utopistic.
On the other hand, post-war Japan has experienced a slight shift from collectivism to individualism,
still keeping in mind the common heritage that built the nation, and Cuba has become a democratic
state. It can be said that the American Dream of freedom and individualism has spread.
At the beginning of the war, most nations only worry about themselves and those who share their
heritage. Each country has their own version of the Redeker Plan, and some even reject it. However,
23

in the end phase of the war, the world comes together as one nation against the un-nation of the
undead. Nations as natural entities continue to exist: the U.S. Army only marches until Hero City.
Still a certain measure global identity is present, the world is still at war and to end that war, the UN
multinational force is created ( WWZ: 404). A global identity can now be constructed on a common,
global trauma,
Anywhere around the world, anyone you talk to, all of us have this powerful shared
experience. /--/ We had people from everywhere, and even though the details might have
been different, the stories themselves were all pretty much the same. (WWZ: 413)
8 NATIONALISM IN WORLD WAR Z
Max Brooks' previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide, is often characterized as a satire of
American post-war survivalism. Though World War Z adopts a much more serious tone, certain
satirical elements can be recognized as well. Satire is a literary style that addresses the differences
between reality and ideals and criticizes people's vices or societal liabilities (Kivist 2007: 9).
Dystopia literature often contains satirical elements, and for example Huxley's and Orwell's works
are widely considered satirical. (ibid. 12)
World War Z starts out as a satirical description of the present-day world. It sharply anatomizes the
factors that allow the zombie infection to spread: politics, containment of information by regimes,
class differences and general human egoism. The satirical aggression here is directed at the
totalitarian state, repression of democracy and freedom. The satirical laugh, instead, reaches the
present-day Western society and culture of blind consummation. All these factors pave the road that
threatens to lead to the inevitable extinction of the human species.
Nevertheless, as Bond and Collins note, 21 st century apocalyptic dystopia tends to be hopeful rather
than tragic. In World War Z, as well, satire must give way to patriotism. Max Brooks identifies
himself as a fanatical patriot (Bond & Collins: 192), and though his novel's patriotism remains
clear-eyed in acknowledging national shortcomings (ibid.), it emphasizes the spread of American
virtue and Western spirit in a post-war world. On the first hand, the novel structures national
identity in a globalizing world. The real American is rediscovered, and in the course of the war,
individualism and the American Dream are raised to the center. On the other hand, contemporary
American culture is juxtaposed with other, less passive ones. It suggests that some change is needed
in order to achieve the American Dream.

24

Smith writes, Nationalism signifies the awakening of the nation and its members to its collective
'self' so that it and they obey only the 'inner voice' of the purified community. (Smith 1991: 77)
The awakening of the American nation and rediscovering its identity is crucial in Brooks' novel.
Therefore, it can certainly be read in a nationalist fashion.
Though the novel also calls for global collaboration, different nations and national identities are
maintained, even nurtured. The human species is considered to be at war as one nation against the
dead, which implies elements of post-nationalism, but on a fundamental level, each nation is kept
responsible for reacquiring their own historic land. All in all, the most central question considering
national identity in World War Z seems to be how it is still possible to exist as a nation in a
globalized world.
9 CONCLUSION
According to Smith, national identity consists of five important postulates: a historic land, a
common culture, common legal rights and a common economy. When the world is overrun by
ghouls, the solid networks that bind peoples together suddenly cease to exist. Still, nations are kept
together by, if not their shared past and ethnicity, by bare necessity. The Zombie War alters nations
and reawakens them to their national character, but ultimately, nations are preserved through the
war.
Some of the nations described in the novel are heavily constructed on their common history. These
countries are generally those who are best prepared to face the oncoming apocalypse the nations
with a past of war and conflict. America, unlike other states, is however an artificial nation of
sorts. It was not formed based on ethnicity or national history, but common hopes and dreams. It is
no coincidence that the first battle of the attack phase of the war takes place in Hope, New Mexico.
Pre-war America, on the other hand, is satirically presented as a dystopia: there are clear parallels to
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The author plays with the conventions of utopia and dystopia,
showing how the late capitalist society is forced to return to its roots. It is shown that a central
element of the American identity is the American Dream, the right and opportunity to pursue one's
personal utopia.
In the course of the war, new societies are formed, not on hopes and dreams but for the sake of
25

survival. Belongingness to a nation becomes a survival technique. However, it also seems to be


important to reacquire a nation's historic land in order for its identity to be preserved. As the world
moves into the attack phase, language is consciously used to reinforce the image of the zombie
pandemic as a war. Firstly, this gives the civilians hope, a dream of a potential victory. Secondly, it
is used to reconstruct and reinforce national identity. Thirdly, it puts the whole human kind into the
position of a single nation against an un-nation of the dead, thus bringing the world closer together.
The winners of the Zombie War are those who refuse to succumb to the masses. On one level, it is
individualism that keeps people alive and individualism is a crucial part of the American national
character.
World War Z may be understood as a nationalist statement. It is, however, also critical towards the
present-day Western culture. Something needs to be changed, it argues, in order to achieve the
American Dream. It calls for active citizenship rather than passive consummation. A zombie
apocalypse is not something that just happens; it is a targeted device to shake the modern culture
and alter it. Collins and Bond say that modern zombie fiction reflects our fear of loss of identity
(Bond & Collins 2011: 204). Nevertheless, an identity once lost can also be regained.
It is to be noted that the novel, despite its treatment of global themes, has a very Western point of
view. Democracy as well as individualism are considered positive values, which can be seen from
the juxtaposition of Western and Eastern cultures. Therefore, a postcolonial reading from the point
of view of a more collectivistic culture may present fascinating new information on issues of
nationality in the novel.
World War Z discusses identity firstly as a member of a nation, but also as a citizen of the world; it
asks how it is possible for nations and separate national identities to exist in a globalized world. The
Zombie War has waken the American nation into a new morning. This newly acquired national
consciousness can be summarized into one iconic image of the last day of the war on American soil:
no cheering, no celebration, only sunrise over the Hero City (WWZ: 420).

26

REFERENCES
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und Identitt in deutscher und franzsischer Literatur. Edited by Ruth Florack. Tbingen: Max
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BOND, Elson & COLLINS, Margo 2011: 'Off the page and into your brains!' New Millennium
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