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Published: 27-10-2019

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Mediocrity vs. Mediocracy in Zone One

Colson Whitehead has written an inordinately compelling post-apocalyptic science fiction novel centering about the zombie archetype. In Zone 1, he deftly uses the zombie model to create a mediocracy—a populace of dependent thinkers who accept, with out query, a method of existence that is not favorable to them. In so carrying out, Whitehead turns the undead into symbolism to criticize the classism of Capitalism and the mindsets that contribute to failure to measure up to potential. Whitehead writes Mark Spitz as a character to embody the irony of employing mediocrity as a haven from the burden of pursuing success to illustrate that to be mediocre is to affirm the mediocracy furthermore, the mediocracy inherently stifles ambition and hinders success, and therein lies the crux of Whitehead’s irony and the cornerstone of his criticism of Capitalist society.

The text in the end defines good results as a a lot more-or-much less fruitless burden imposed upon the multitude. It is starkly reminiscent of the Marxist concept of false consciousness, which is the sociological outcome of Capitalism culturally conditioning the minds of the individuals to accept a program that disadvantages them. Accepting this system without having questioning it and with out protest is “to accept it as the logical way for factors to be” for no other explanation than that such is the Capitalist ideology into which the people have been interpellated (Dobie 94). This notion of false consciousness is an integral portion of interpellation, which Louis Althusser, a shaping figure of Marxism in the twentieth century, defined simply as the manipulation of the functioning class “to accept the ideology of the dominant class” (Dobie 88). This is what Whitehead uses the skel horde to symbolize.

Whitehead narrates a scene late in “Sunday,” the initial portion of the novel, where Central Park in Manhattan is overtaken with those infected by the plague. This is Spitz’s first chance to see Central Park from such aerial vantage, and he is aghast to study how the undead move. The way Whitehead chooses to describe this scene is pregnant with meaning: They didn’t cease to appreciate the scenery, these dead visitors they ranged on the grass and walkways with out goal or sense, moving 1st this way and then strolling in an additional direction until, distracted by nothing at all in certain, they readjusted their idiot course. (Whitehead 91) This description signifies the mindless proletariat (as opposed to the controlling bourgeoisie) aimlessly looking for without understanding what they’re in search of due to the fact achievement is so subjectively defined that no a single knows how to pursue it, let alone how to attain it.

Mediocrity presents itself in the novel, by way of Spitz’s eyes at least, as a virtue. There are a lot of situations in which the protagonist thinks or speaks of mediocrity as a indicates of safeguarding a comfort zone. The text explains that Mark Spitz’s aim in life or, as he terms it, “the enterprise of existence” is merely to suffer as little as possible, as opposed to the far more idealistic objective of enjoying as significantly as feasible (Whitehead 106). He considers it most essential to lessen consequences in life, nothing far more, and he deems the plague to be a mere challenge to this endgame for which he has been training all his life. In other words, he has considerable practice and familiarity with mediocrity. This establishes Spitz’s perspective of achievement as one particular in which succeeding is merely maintaining life uneventful.

A single of the most pervasive themes in the story is that of averageness, the thought of becoming thoroughly unremarkable as a individual. From the quite beginning, Spitz is discussing this idea at length, and he embraces it wholesale since he feels that it is secure. Whitehead, nevertheless, utilizes the story to take Spitz’s character through a progression of events that brings him to question this dismal philosophy. Spitz has such lowly consideration for the notion of good results due to the fact of his yearn to espouse averageness, but one particular scene a lot more than any other depicts by means of Whitehead’s narration just how parallel the skels are to Spitz and other so-known as average people, which makes a commentary about society being comprised in massive component of individuals unwilling to turn into something because they are complacent—because they prefer to simply accept status quot:

If the things they destroyed had been their personal creations, and not the degraded remnants of the individuals described on the things’ driver’s licenses, so be it. We by no means see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them. To Mark Spitz, the dead were his neighbors, the folks he saw every single day, as he may on a subway automobile, the fantastic metropolitan array. The subway was the wonderful leveler—underground, the Wall Street titans stood in the shuddering vehicle and clutched the exact same poles as the junior IT guys to produce a totem of fists […] All have been smeared into a typical average of existence, the A’s and the C’s tumbling or increasing to settle into a ruthless mediocrity. No escape. This is the plane where Mark Spitz lived. They had been all him. Middling talents who got by, barnacles on humanity’s hull, survivors who had not however been extinguished. Possibly it was only a matter of time. Maybe he would reside till he chose not to. (Whitehead 266-7)

To Mark Spitz, the best world is 1 devoid of noticeable accomplishment or differentiation. He apotheosizes a world in which everybody blends together and stands on an equal playing field not for competition’s sake but for quite the opposite. He is averse to any signifies of measuring men and women against a single an additional, and his thoughts gravitates toward suggestions that don’t acknowledge the stratification of peers.

Spitz remarking near the finish that 1 has to swim sometime indicates that he is ultimately prepared to finish his stagnation and step into his prospective, and due to the fact his name alludes to a potential for greatness (referring to Mark Andrew Spitz, an Olympic swimmer of seven gold medals), the reader is produced to wonder what he could have achieved had he reached this conclusion a lot earlier in life. Whitehead brings Spitz through this character development specifically to pose that question to the reader in a prolix and captivating, narrative way. Rather than serving as a haven, mediocrity withheld a wealth of prospective from Spitz as it presumably withholds from society at huge, specifically the complacent operating class.

Functions Cited

Dobie, Ann B. Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 4th ed. Boston: Thomson Heinle, 2015. Print.

Whitehead, Colson. Zone A single. New York City, London, Toronto, Sidney, Auckland: Doubleday, 2011. Kindle.
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