Zeitoun

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Zeitoun Part 2: Thursday September 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Early that morning, Kathy buckles her kids into the car to drive the 1500 miles to Phoenix. She knows it’s a crazy decision, but also knows she can’t stay in Baton Rouge, and she doesn’t know when she’ll be able to return to New Orleans. On the road she calls the Claiborne house, though it’s earlier than her arranged call with Zeitoun. A gruff-sounding man enters and says that there’s no one there by that name, and then the line goes dead. Kathy begins to worry that the man has killed Zeitoun and robbed the house.
Kathy’s mother’s hurtful comment about her hijab is the last straw for her. Failing to connect with her family in Baton Rouge, she decides to try her luck with her second family: Yuko and her husband. Kathy’s failed attempt to call Zeitoun only gives her another thing to worry about, even though he isn’t supposed to call until later—the sensationalism on the news has made her paranoid.
Themes
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
Crime, Justice, and Injustice Theme Icon
Listening to the radio, Kathy is even more scared by reports of lawlessness and a message from Governor Blanco that U.S. soldiers fresh from war will be arriving in New Orleans shortly, ready to “shoot and kill” any “hoodlums.” As her children pipe up to ask about what’s going on, Kathy shuts off the radio and tries to comfort them.
Governor Blanco’s address, like much of the government’s response, seems less concerned with those needing help and rescue and more with punishing the apparent lawlessness in the city. Kathy is simultaneously drawn to this information overload and aware that it could be unhelpful, and even harmful.
Themes
Crime, Justice, and Injustice Theme Icon
Human vs. Natural Tragedy Theme Icon
Frazzled, Kathy pulls into a rest stop and calls Yuko, who tells her to stay there. Yuko arranges for them all to spend the night at her friend’s house in Houston. Yuko’s husband Ahmaad will fly to Houston, meet them in the morning, and drive them to Phoenix. Yuko tells Kathy that they’re sisters—Yuko’s mother Kameko died last year, and now Kathy is all she has.
Unlike Kathy’s sister, Yuko proves to be flexible and gracious in wanting to help her adopted “sister,” even sending her husband on a plane to pick up Kathy and her family. This is the kind of selflessness that both Kathy and Zeitoun embrace in the idea of family—a concept that doesn’t have to mean one’s blood relations.
Themes
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
Zeitoun awakens to the sound of dogs howling. He immediately gets up and paddles down the street. He finds a plank with which he creates a bridge to climb up to the window of a house that seems to be the source of the barks. Inside, he finds two desperate dogs in a cage with no food or water. He lets them out, but there’s nowhere for them to go. Zeitoun returns home and removes two steaks from the freezer along with water bottles from the roof, and carries them back to the dogs. He does the same for a house down the street, where two other dogs are trapped.
Zeitoun’s enterprising nature proves helpful in finding other, non-human victims of the hurricane. These dogs’ owners probably assumed they’d be back within a few days, and now, with the city under mandatory evacuation, the animals are abandoned. Zeitoun feels just as compassionate to these animals as he feels towards his other neighbors trapped after the storm.
Themes
Faith, Perseverance, and Dignity Theme Icon
Human vs. Natural Tragedy Theme Icon
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Though Zeitoun notices the water is growing more contaminated, he still feels invigorated at what he’s done to help the animals, and looks forward to calling Kathy to tell her. She lets out a sigh of relief when he reaches her, and asks him who the man was. Zeitoun can’t imagine who this would be, and says it was probably a friend of Todd’s. Kathy tells Zeitoun that he really needs to leave the city, given all the looting and killing she’s heard about. But Zeitoun can’t imagine what she’s talking about. He confides that he feels like he’s meant to stay—it’s God’s will.
As we saw in the book’s opening pages, Zeitoun is accustomed to sharing all the details of his day-to-day life with Kathy, and it seems that they’re still getting used to only being able to speak to each other once a day. Once again, the apocalyptic news that Kathy is hearing on TV and the radio contrasts with what Zeitoun has seen, which is mostly people in need of rescue and assistance rather than “hoodlums.”
Themes
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
Crime, Justice, and Injustice Theme Icon
Islam and Islamophobia Theme Icon
Setting back out, Zeitoun runs into Charlie Ray, a carpenter who lives next to the Claiborne house and who apparently has also decided to stay—this comforts Zeitoun. Whenever he sees other people, he offers help and a bottle of water or canned food, which he’s picked up along the way. He paddles up to the I-10 ramp on Claiborne, where dozens of people are waiting to be rescued. A helicopter has dropped off food and water, and the people give Zeitoun a case to give to others. Zeitoun decides not to go any closer to downtown, given what Kathy said.
Although Zeitoun has, as usual, put on a strong face for Kathy, it still seems that he can be lonely with so few others in the city, and any human contact is welcome. With his visit to Claiborne, Zeitoun confirms his intuition that most people left in the city are simply vulnerable victims in need of help, though he cannot know if the situation is really more dire downtown, as Kathy said was on the news.
Themes
Crime, Justice, and Injustice Theme Icon
Human vs. Natural Tragedy Theme Icon
Yuko, meanwhile, has arranged for Kathy and the kids to sleep at the home of a longtime friend, Miss Mary, in Houston. Miss Mary also was born into a Christian household and converted to Islam as an adult. Her home is now host to a dozen Muslim families from New Orleans. Mary hugs Kathy upon her arrival, and Kathy feels a sense of relief.
In the aftermath of the storm, certain religious and cultural communities prove vital in assisting people who have nowhere to stay. The Muslim community is one of these, made up of individuals who are deeply generous in spirit. This fact, combined with the strength and kindness Zeitoun draws from his faith, contrast sharply with the negative idea of Islam many Americans hold.
Themes
Family, Community, and Home Theme Icon
Islam and Islamophobia Theme Icon
When Zeitoun returns home, he hears a helicopter approaching. He pokes his head outside to see it hovering over his house with two men signaling to him. Zeitoun tries to tell him that he’s not interested in being rescued. Finally they understand and drop bottles of water right on the tent he’s put on the roof, knocking it over. The helicopter flies away.
Back in New Orleans, Zeitoun’s first experience with a rescue helicopter already reveals some of the problems with the rescue effort, as the dropped bottles of water do more to harm than to help, symbolically knocking over Zeitoun’s shelter.
Themes
Crime, Justice, and Injustice Theme Icon
Zeitoun is restless and finds it difficult to sleep. He makes plans to check the office and the warehouse on Dublin Street the next day. He no longer hears dogs, only helicopters whizzing overhead.
Zeitoun’s restlessness stems, perhaps, from his uncertainty as to his place and role on the ground in New Orleans, as the needs of people are shifting, and government’s response seems harsh and ineffective.
Themes
Faith, Perseverance, and Dignity Theme Icon