Heroes in World War Z
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According to the Wikipedia definition of “hero,” a person who fills this role can be described in the following way: “Hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice. ” (“Hero”) In the novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, author Max Brooks constructs some stories in which people who are heroes fit this description. Specifically, Brooks maintains that due to internal fortitude, heroes exhibit a strong sense of courage and self-sacrifice.
What’s more, those who surround these heroes are inspired to overcome the unfortunate situations they are experiencing. However, many people will argue that what we do have are attenuated heroes who manifest heroic tendencies that reflect our own fragmented and hero-less society. Humans lead an existence that is influenced by stories and the lasting legends of mythological heroes. The deeds of heroes have proven to be vital to humanity’s efforts to rebuild social values and develop civilization.
Heroes motivate subsequent generations, and also personify our ideals. For instance, there is a public monument located in Postman’s Park in the city of London, named the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, to commemorate ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and might otherwise have been forgotten. The tablets on the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice are memorable and evocative examples of how heroes and their spirits can survive within the infrastructure of our modern life.
Heroism forms part of the necessary foundation of a country’s ideological life, and Brooks emphasizes different kinds of heroes in World War Z to represent how the personal character and behaviour of heroes, especially a belief in courage and self-sacrifice, inspires individuals and nations. The narrative of Joe Muhammad in World War Z serves to prove that anyone can be a hero, even an unexpected person, as long as he displays courage and is able to inspire the people around him. In most legendary tales of heroes, imaginary heroes have a strong appearance, and their superior strength is often the vehicle of their heroism.
In world literature, many epic heroes possess vital physical strength. The trait of physical strength aids the heroes through their epic journeys. In Beowulf, the hero Beowulf is able to throw the she-witch to the ground, thus proving that he is the strongest man in the world. (Wilhelm, Jeffery D 465) In our modern society, it is commonly thought that people lack a sense of bravery, determination and patience, which leads a belief that traditional stories neglect the psychological strength that a hero requires.
Brooks wishes to reverse the tendency to focus on strength, and to draw focus to the massive strength of courage a hero must possess. Joe Muhammad is a disabled hero of Arabian descent, possibly a Muslim. This is a charged status, given the political climate and the ideological conflicts within the United States. When Joe’s application to fight in the NST program is rejected due to the recruiter’s doubts about his physical condition, Joe presents one of the most compelling arguments in the novel: It’s not like we had to chase them over fences and across backyards.
They came to us. And if and when they did so, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, there was more than we could handle? Shit, if I couldn’t roll myself faster than a walking zombie, how could I have lasted this long? I state my case very clearly and calmly, and I even challenged her to present a scenario in which my physical state could be an impediment. (Brooks 152) In a passage near the end of book, Joe briefly reminisces about the isolation his family experienced within American society before the worldwide zombie war.
He emerges from this experience without an antagonistic view of Americans. Against expectations, he insists that he can be a member of NST to protect his neighborhood, thereby creating a sense of optimism around him. I believe that when a significantly physically disabled person such as Joe loudly expressed his strong willingness to fight against zombies, the others in the room will be inspired to follow Joe’s example and to save the entire human race from the mass extinction. What a single man can do is often insignificant.
However, if we combine all the efforts of many individuals, that solidarity will effect change. A hero is a person who demonstrates courage in order to create goodwill that will unite the people around him. Heroism emerges in the behaviour of Joe Muhammad, a man with a weakened physical status that limits his status as a traditional hero, but whose courage is truly heroic. Brooks also demonstrates that heroism involves the notion of self-sacrifice: a hero will often be called upon to sacrifice his life to save his country.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once makes the claim “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy. ” (qtd. In Fitzgerald) The sentence is related to the idea that, ultimately, someone who surrenders his life to save someone is a hero. In most movies and works of literature, people depict heroes as sufferers who endure separation and hardship for the sake of the greater good. The hero must pay a price to attain his goal. The belief that sacrifices are unavoidable and normal for heroes is widespread. In World War Z, Max Brooks reminds us of the value of this type of heroism.
Brooks writes about a General in India named Raj-Singh, using him as an example of someone who has chosen between his own life and the welfare of his country: Something had gone wrong with the charges that were buried half a kilometer down the road, set right in the middle of the refugees. Thank God for General Raj-Singh. He reacted…exactly how you would expect a living legend to react. He ordered us to get out of here, save ourselves and get to Shimla, then turned and ran right into crowd. (Brooks 134) General Raj-Singh finally sets off the explosion, detonating the bomb in order to stop zombies from entering the secure area.
In the process, he loses his life. As the book discloses, General Raj-Singh has the opportunity to flee to the secure area and save his life. However, General Raj-Singh lays down his life for his country, bearing a patch on his right eye and a bandage on his nose. These injuries are caused by one of his men striking him in the face to get him on the last chopper out of Gandhi Park. Through the example of General Raj-Singh, Brooks is able to show that true heroes place patriotism and nationalism ahead of their survival, as these concepts embody their belief in the meaning of life.
Occasionally, heroes will hesitate and experiences a dilemma between survival and their country, but finally they will decide to sacrifice his life to attain a greater good for the nation that surrounds him. Brooks’ notion of heroism is demonstrated throughout the text: “We were not traitors-I say this before I’ll say anything else. We loved our country, we loved our people, and while we may not have loved those who ruled both, we were unwaveringly loyal to our leadership. (Brooks 233)
This paragraph is delivered by an Admiral from China, and is said in commemoration of the heroism of his superior, a man named Captain Chen. Due to the government’s failure to react appropriately, the army is unable to control the contagion of zombies and the panic spreading among the civilians. They have to flee a port in secret, and must act quickly to resolve the country’s destiny and the nation’s fate. In the narrative, Captain Chen is a man who focuses on family bonds. Incredibly, he shoots what he believes might be his son’s submarine in order to protect the submarine crew and their family members.
One can imagine how torn Captain Chen must have been when he issues the order, and how morose he must have been when he believes that he had killed his only son. These two examples of heroic self-sacrifice demonstrate the significance of this trait in the book’s version of heroism. In conclusion, heroism is one of many topics that Brooks explores in this novel, but it is an underlying value that informs the whole book. Brooks is able to express an idea of American heroism after post 9/11 through the novel’s events, and presents an admirable insight into this side of humanity.
As former president Bush declared, “In such courage and compassion, we see the spirit and character of American –and these qualities are not in short supply” (qtd. In Bush) In regards to human history, not restricted to American history, heroism emerges in all manner of situations, no matter what adversity is being encountered. Above all, a sense of courage and self-sacrifice informs all heroism, and no hero can be complete without these indispensable characteristics. World War Z, provides a vision of heroes in modern society, and explains the positive effect of heroism on all ordinary people.