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Zombie Sociology in Literature

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Zombie Outbreak in Literature Looking at literature, there are so many different genres and subgenres. When writing is involved, there are hundreds of possibilities and potentials to make an amazing piece that’ll be loved, hated, and talked about for years to come. There is a certain genre that has come into higher and higher power, that’s almost as well renowned as romance or adventure would be the horror genre. In horror there are so many amazing authors, capable of causing the reader to feel such intense emotions through just their writing. But unlike romance or adventure, these emotions are more so fear, anxiety, or paranoia. They write books or poems that leave people checking their closets, plugging in a nightlight, and hiding underneath their blankets to go to sleep at night. Some of the most amazing authors include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub. All of them having different writing styles and stories, yet their pieces all yield the same results. Just like all the other genres, horror can also be broken down into different subgenres. This includes types like psychological horror, which leaves the reader questioning everyone’s sanity, even their own. There’s gothic, involving a mixture of psychological terror in romantic settings, including mysteries, ghosts, castles, decay, madness, hereditary curses, and death. Also on this list of subgenres is supernatural, the main cause of people seeing things out of the corner of their eye when there’s nothing there. All of these subgenres can branch off into more specific story types. Looking at the supernatural, there are things like ghosts, aliens, magic, monsters, and even zombies. Now to bring around the main purpose of this essay to just that. Zombies. More specifically looking at where and how it started, observing the rise and popularity of it in literature over time, and its rising fan-base and cult followers. Taking a closer look at zombies themselves, people might wonder why they have such a sticky factor. Their flesh hangs from their bones when they reach out to you with their missing limbs, calling out for you to supply them with flesh or brains with incoherent moans. The dead no longer are your brother, sister, mother, father, friend or lover. They would tear your face off before you could even ask what they were doing. Not to mention the world around descends to anarchy of the worst kind as people can do what they want, when they want. This includes murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, and anything else you can think of. Not to mention the loss of electricity, safety, home, and comfort. So how could people have such an attraction to the gross, decaying, walking deceased, and the world that comes with them? Well to figure this out, we have to go back and dig deeper into where it all started, and when it picked up. There isn’t really an exact pinpoint as to where zombies actually originated, though there are quite a few theories. One of the heaviest theories is the voodoo culture and the Haitian tradition. In this tradition, it is said that a dead person is brought back to life physically by a bokor sorcerer with the use of necromancy. A bokor is described as a witch-like figure. After the reanimation of the bodies, they became the slaves of the bokor, used to do anything they’re told, since they had no free will of their own. Aside from the commonly known gruesome, physical aspect of the zombie curse, few know about the other version rumored to be practiced among the old tribes most demented witchdoctors. The “zombie astral” would be when the bokor captured part of the human soul to use to enhance his own power. He would also sell them to people in bottles to help in the healing process or for business success. It was believed that after a certain amount of time, God would take back the souls. Therefore the zombies were merely a temporary spiritual entity. This story was then brought over with the Haitian slaves. They thought there was a Voodoo deity called Baron Samedi that, after death, would take them from their graves and bring them back to an afterlife in Africa. But if they had offended him in any way, they would be forced to be a slave after death and serve as a zombie. Looking at what was going on to them, being slaves already, this could serve as a metaphor to their time, not wanting to continue being slaves after death. The first recorded case in literature on this subject happened in William Seabrook’s book released in 1929 called The Magic Island. Looking at the criminal code, he writes what seems to be the first official zombie recognition in Article 246. "Also shall be qualified as attempted murder the employment which may be made by any person of substances which, without causing actual death, produce a lethargic coma more or less prolonged. If, after the administering of such substances, the person has been buried, the act shall be considered murder no matter what result follows." Zombies slowly begin to spread and grow from 1915-1934 while the United States occupied Haiti, and are able to bring back stories and rumors. Soon after, books and movies begin sprouting, catching the attention of millions. Again the question presents itself. Why? Why was it able to stick so effectively? Why did it not just fade out like so many other fads? Well it seems that it was able to cling onto the public emotionally. With so many pieces of literature coming out, as well as movies, zombies were exciting. They were different and new. Even after a while, they never really quieted down like normal fads do. This proves it to be a little more than a fad, and soon carved itself out its own little place in the horror genre. There are countless books and movies from that first reference, to even now, when books and movies are still being made. There were books such as Herbert West- Reanimator (1921), Illuminatus (1976), On Stranger Tides (1988), On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks (1989). The list goes on until present day with The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), World War Z (2006), Pride Prejudice and Zombies (2009), Rot and Ruin (2010), Warm Bodies (2010), and even the popular comic series The Walking Dead (2003). Not to mention all the movies and TV shows that hasn’t been touched on. So how have all of these been able to stay? To get that answer, we need to check the society at the time these books have been published. With all of these over time, it’s become more than just an idea and a different world and story. It’s turned into a culture. Over the years that these books, movies, and comics rose in power, there were very evident causes to their attraction when you look at what was going on in the world outside the stories. War, disease control, the government, social views, social anxiety, ideologies, religious rapture scares, and social structures of the times, all seem to have direct impact to these stories. During the times of war, people were dying left, right, and center. Those who went off to war were in dirty places, surrounded by dying people, as blind followers, doing as they were told. The loved ones they left at home, having to live day by day, wondering if they’ll come back. The attraction to the books about the dead coming home would have quite a bit of appeal to that time. Then, due to the war, the social anxiety at the time would be at an all-time high. They would be begging for something to take their minds off of the world around them. Well what if they could read about a world worse than their own? At least in their lives, the danger was quite a ways away. But in the zombie books, the danger was right on the characters doorstep. It would be relieving to read about someone who has it worse than them. Disregarding the war, there is another deadly killer that is always there, lurking over peoples shoulders all the time, even in present days. That would be disease. Health scares are around all the time. The Spanish influenza, the swine flu, the bird flu, mad cow disease, cancer, the list goes on. It’s terrifying. But then there is the world with the zombie flu. Sure, it’s scary, but it’s also fascinating to read about, and even fanaticise about. Not getting it, but living in a world where it’s possible. People are drawn to things that could happen, but aren’t happening yet. So it’s no surprise they’d be drawn to a reanimating virus, capable of bringing the dead back to life. Last factor to look at is the government and the social views of the people. There are so many people over time that has spoken about overthrowing the government. They’ve talked about how better the world would be if it was run by something different or even not run at all. Well in a zombie infested world, that’s exactly what happens. The government can’t be in power if they’re hiding from the dead or even dead themselves. This leaves people to do whatever they want. They’re no longer under control and rules of other people. They’re finally the rulers of themselves. It’s no wonder that this kind of world will be appealing, despite the constant threat of being eaten. As long as they think they’d be a survivor, they want it to happen. People love the idea of self-rule. So they’ll continue to promote and buy the creation of those kinds of worlds. Looking at all of this, it’s safe to say that the zombie culture has secured its spot comfortably in the supernatural subgenre alongside vampires and werewolves. With the support of the people now-a-days, it’s hard to think that it’ll ever fade away. With its wide fan base of mindless cult followers, as well as the overthinking, fantasizing society of the time, filled with war, hate, diseases, anarchy dreams, and people ready to band together, there’ll always be a reason to look into the world of the hungry, deadly, mindless walking dead. As long as there is humanity and society, there will be zombies.…...

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