World War Z

World War Z

by

Max Brooks

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World War Z: Chapter 4: Turning the Tide Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Robben Island, Cape Town Province, United States of Southern Africa. The narrator meets Xolelwa Azania at his writing desk where he is working on his book Rainbow Fist: South Africa at War. The book is about the turning point in the war against the living dead. Azania talks about Paul Redeker, one of history’s most controversial figures, and describes him as being very dispassionate. Redeker believed that “humanity’s one fundamental flaw was emotion.” He wrote many papers as a student that gave alternate, rational  solutions to historical and societal problems, which first brought him to the attention of the apartheid government. He believed “both love and hate to be irrelevant,” and the South African government considered him to be “an invaluable source of liberated intellect” and used his plan to negotiate the apartheid crisis.
Redeker believed that emotions are a human “flaw,” in contrast to the narrator’s claim in the introduction, in which he speaks of the value of feelings and emotions—to him, they are what connects human beings to one another. Redeker, however, valued only logic and rationality, suggesting that the Redeker Plan would be built on a foundation of pure logic rather than emotion. 
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During the Great Panic, agents of the National Intelligence Agency found Redeker and asked him for his help to solve the crisis. He already had a plan for dealing with the undead. First, he believed there was no way to save everyone, and that the armed forces would need to be retreat to “safe zones” that would have some sort of natural barrier against the zombies like mountains and rivers. Second, only a small percentage of civilians could be moved within these zones, and they would provide the government with a labor force and also grant legitimacy to the government. Other people were to be herded into isolated zones where they would serve as “human bait” to lure the undead away from safe zones. He said these people should be kept alive by the government in order to ensure that the zombies left the safe zones alone.
Redeker’s plan, while efficient, was also rational to the point of cruelty. He seemed to have viewed people as either a labor force or zombie food—unlike the narrator in the introduction to this novel, Redeker doesn’t at all take into consideration people’s feelings, opinions, or relationships. However, the problem had already gotten so out of hand that more humane solutions would have been ineffective.
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When Redeker read his report to the president’s cabinet, it was greeted with outrage. One person, however, stood up for him—an “elder statesman, the father of [their] new democracy.” He greeted Redeker warmly and told the room that Redeker’s plan would save the nation. He hugged Redeker, and the emotion of the embrace broke something inside Redeker. He was never seen or heard from again. Azania says that this might be because Redeker had tried to suppress his emotions all his life since this was “the only way to protect his sanity from the hatred and brutality he witnessed on a daily basis.”
A respected “elder statesman” had the foresight to see that Redeker’s plan was the only way forward and stood up for Redeker’s ideas. (This is probably a reference to Nelson Mandela, the respected South African statesman who is known for his warm hugs.) When this man hugged Redeker, Redeker had some kind of emotional breakdown and disappeared from public life. Azania guesses that this might have happened because Redeker had suppressed his emotions all his life since he couldn’t bear the harshness of daily living, and the statesman’s acceptance and warmth had called up his emotions. This episode suggests that emotions are such an integral part of human nature than it is impossible to deny and repress them.
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Related Quotes
Azania says he stepped in after Redeker disappeared and helped to implement the plan. He says he pities Redeker and hopes he is at peace. The narrator leaves Azania and takes a ferry back to the mainland. He has been at the Robben Island Psychiatric Institution, and has visited a patient named Paul Redeker.
The narrator reveals that Azania is in fact Redeker. He has had a mental breakdown and has taken on a new identity, probably because he couldn’t bear the thought of being the one who came up with the plan that would cause the deaths of huge swathes of civilians. While Redeker was often considered to be completely emotionless, his breakdown suggests that he, too, suffered the weight of the Redeker Plan. The narrator’s theory that the “human factor” connects all people seems to be right.
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Armagh, Ireland. The narrator bumps into Philip Adler at the Pope’s wartime refuge. It is Adler’s first time traveling outside of Germany after the war ended. He tells the narrator that Hamburg was crawling with zombies and refugees, and he was put in charge of his sector after the commanding officer was infected. He set up headquarters at the Renaissance Hotel and advocated sequestering civilians while they waited for help to arrive. His sector was low on ammunition and they were looking for improvised weapons when they got the order to retreat. The orders also specified that they were not to move the civilians or inform them that they were leaving. Adler asked for confirmation that he was understanding the message correctly, and he got it.
The previous section showed that the Redeker Plan was so harsh that it triggered a breakdown in its creator. In this section, the narrator shows how difficult it was for the German armed forces to execute it. Soldiers like Adler took their duties very seriously. It was so hard for him to grasp that he was to abandon the civilians that he believed he must protect.
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When Adler asked for confirmation again, he found himself speaking to General Lang, commander of the entire Northern Front. In a shaking voice, Lang told him that the orders were not a mistake. Adler felt terrible about “following orders that would indirectly cause a mass murder.” As a West German, he keenly felt “the responsibility of the past” and was raised to obey his conscience. He told Lang he could not obey the order. Lang told him that if he didn’t, he and his men would be charged with treason and prosecuted. Adler felt his men deserved better, so he gave the order to withdraw.
Adler tells the narrator that his heritage as a “West German” made him put his conscience first, reminding him that the cruelties of the Holocaust were only possible because the Germans of the previous generation had unquestioningly obeyed orders. However, he was forced to obey these new, cruel orders when his general threatened not only Adler but also his men. Adler noticed that General Lang’s voice was “shaking” as he gave the orders, suggesting that, he, too, was struggling with them.
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Related Quotes
As the troops left Hamburg, the civilians shouted angrily at them, calling them liars and cowards. They threw furniture and lamps down on them. Adler fought tears and vowed to kill General Lang when they got out. However, Lang had committed suicide before Adler got to him. Adler says that he now understands the plan and why they had been ordered to do what they did. He says this makes him hate Lang more, since Lang had known about the plan and understood that the road ahead was a difficult one in which men like him would be necessary—and yet, he’d chosen the easy path of death, like a coward.
Adler was devastated and ashamed as he led his troops out of Hamburg. He believes that General Lang took the easy way out by killing himself since implementing the Redeker Plan only got harder. The narrator seems to agree with Adler—General Lang’s cowardly step can be contrasted with the actions other army superiors in the novel, like General Raj-Singh and Captain Chen, who took the weight of difficult actions onto themselves in order to spare their soldiers.
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Yevchenko Veterans’ Sanatorium, Odessa, Ukraine. The narrator describes the room he is in as being windowless and dimly lit. The patients suffer mostly from respiratory disorders and do not have any usable medication. There are no doctors, and they are cared for by overworked nurses and orderlies. Bohdan Taras Kondratiuk is a war hero, and speaks to the narrator between bouts of coughing.
These sick veterans are being housed in terrible conditions—it is tragic that this is what a “war hero” must endure. The war has certainly left a destroyed world.
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Kondratiuk says that he and his men were exhausted after four brutal engagements. They were looking forward to some rest at Kiev, but as soon as they got there, it was being evacuated, and they had to oversee the escape route at Patona Bridge. The bridge was crowded and chaotic, and their orders were to check if any of the evacuees were infected. This was an impossible task without dogs, and Kondratiuk’s men were attacked—some even killed—by the angry evacuees who refused to comply. Kondratiuk was radioing for help that was promised but never arrived.
Kondratiuk’s account highlights the hardships of the war. The Ukrainian soldiers were overworked and exhausted, and civilians were terrified and angry and turned on them. The Ukrainian government seems to have demanded a lot of its armed forces without providing them with adequate resources, like dogs to sniff out infected humans. 
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Kondratiuk heard the moan of approaching zombies, and at the same time saw four jets approaching the bridge. He suddenly realized that they were about to bomb the bridge, and yelled for people to run. There was immediate panic, and some even dove into the water. Kondratiuk saw the parachutes released by the jets and recognized the RVX. He dove into a tank to take shelter, ensuring that its seal was tight, and huddled with a few frightened soldiers. He saw the evacuees outside immediately dying as the nerve agent did its job, and wondered why the army decided to use it because it would be useless against the undead.
While terrified civilians ran and even jumped into the river at the sight of the jets, Kondratiuk realized that this would be of no use since the planes were dropping nerve agents, not bombs. From inside his tank, Kondratiuk witnessed the horrific sight of people falling dead as the nerve agent took effect. Importantly, the army didn’t seem to think even its soldiers—like Kondratiuk—deserved to be warned about its decision, and Kondratiuk, too, never stops to question this, suggesting that the Ukrainian army didn’t value its soldiers very much. Kondratiuk does wonder about the army’s decision to take this step since the nerve agent would kill people, not zombies.
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Then, Kondratiuk saw that those who had been bitten and had tried to conceal it were now reanimating, and he realized that the bomb was a way to identify the infected. He ordered the gunner in the tank to take them out. Other tanks around them followed suit, and he could see more jets flying to other bridges, and even to the city center. He then ordered his company to withdraw and they headed southwest, the bodies around them popping as the tank ran over them.
Kondratiuk made the chilling realization that the army had dropped the nerve agent only to identify the infected—even though that meant they’d be killing civilians in the process. Unlike Adler, who was so angry at the idea of putting civilians in danger that he refuses orders, Kondratiuk doesn’t seem particularly stunned or angry at this hideous strategy, at least not for long. He quickly recovers and orders that the reanimating zombies be shot. He recalls that the bodies around them “popped” as his tank ran over them, a gruesome image that must haunt him though he doesn’t admit it. This interview once again highlights the drastic steps that governments had to take to curb the zombie menace.
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Sand Lakes Provincial Wilderness Park, Manitoba, Canada. Jesika Hendricks is part of the Wilderness Restoration Project and has volunteered in this sub-arctic region every summer after the war ended. She tells the narrator that she doesn’t really blame the government for diverting some refugees north since she understands that they couldn’t shelter everyone west behind the Rocky Mountains. Yet, she cannot forgive them for doing this in an irresponsible way and for withholding information that could have helped many of the refugees survive.
Hendricks’ anger against the government seems very justified. She understands that not everyone would have fit in the safe zone, but wonders why  the government couldn’t have at least given the others tips on how to survive. Radio Free Earth was one such initiative by a group of concerned people who recognized this lack of information and tried to fill it, but it was probably started after the time that Hendricks describes. She is certainly right that the government totally abandoned people like her, without protection and without information.
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Two weeks after Yonkers, three days after the government retreated west, six zombies were spotted in Hendricks’ neighborhood. Her father decided they would leave and “go north” since the living dead would freeze solid in the cold and the news channels spoke of it as the only hope for survival. They packed what seemed like enough food for a couple of years, but finished half of it on their way up.
Hendricks’ father was taken in by the media’s fear mongering because they had no other source they could get helpful, accurate information from. He led his family into the cold with little food and inadequate preparation since most Americans were used to lives of comfort and were unequipped to survive harsh conditions.
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They set up camp around a lake, close to friendly people, and it initially felt like a party. Back then, Hendricks says, there were still trees. Later, after the second and third waves started showing up, people burned whatever they could for warmth—leaves and stumps, and then plastic and rubber. By then, the fish in the lake were all gone, and there were no animals left to hunt. Still, people were hopeful because the cold would freeze the undead. They didn’t worry about how they would survive the winter. Hendricks says the majority of the people were very unprepared for the cold, and many got sick. When food started running out, the camp began to get dangerous and unruly.
Hendricks’ account shows that the people who went north were initially optimistic but didn’t realize that the weather would prove to be as dangerous as the zombies. While the extreme cold froze the zombies and spared the humans that danger, they hadn’t planned for their resources to last the long, foodless winter months. When the cold arrived, they understood how difficult survival would be and their optimism was replaced by fear and hostility. Hendricks notes that they also caused ecological devastation on a large scale, burning everything in sight until there were no trees left and hunting all the animals of the region.
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Hendricks had been a heavy kid when they arrived at the lake in August, and by November, she and her parents looked like skeletons. Around Thanksgiving, she was too weak to get out of her sleeping bag and could smell the neighbors cooking something delicious, some kind of meat. She heard her parents arguing—her mother wanted to get some for Jesika while her father said they couldn’t stoop to that level. Finally, he traded their radio in for a bucket of stew. Jesika was so happy to eat it. In a few months, both her parents would get sick and she’d be taking care of them. She says that by December, they were overwhelmed by the cold and the camp was quiet. By Christmas, they had “plenty of food.”
Hendricks’ account shows that when faced with desperate situations, people will do anything to survive—even resort to cannibalism. While gruesome, it was the only way for Hendricks and others to survive the crisis. In this way, it seems similar to the Redeker Plan and shows that survival in those dark years came at a very high price.
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Hendricks says that 11 million refugees died that winter, just in North America. By mid-July, the snow melted and the living dead arrived. The narrator watches as she uses a crowbar to crush the skull of a reanimating zombie near them.
A shocking number of people died in just that one winter, and summer brought its own terrors—thawing zombies. Having survived those hard times, Hendricks seems to be hardened as she casually kills zombies while chatting with the narrator. The war not only caused massive destruction but also forced individuals to change in order to survive the hard times. 
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Udaipur Lake Palace, Lake Pichola, Rajasthan, India. This palace is being fixed up by Project Manager Sardar Khan, who says he remembers the monkeys that were fleeing from the zombies, even climbing over people’s heads as the refugees made their way up a narrow Himalayan path. People fell off the path, and Khan even saw a bus go over the edge. A woman with a bundle in her arms was trying to get out when the bus fell, and none of the people attempted to help her. He says that they seemed no different than the monkeys.
Khan describes refugees hurrying to get into the Indian subcontinent’s safe zone in the Himalayas. He says that their fear made them behave like animals—they lost their empathy and cared only about their own safety.
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Khan was just a road engineer who happened to be around when Sergeant Mukherjee needed a driver. Khan tried to explain that he wasn’t qualified for the job, but Mukherjee paid no attention to him. Into his radio, he spoke about the charges to blow the pass already being in place. When they arrived at the pass, Mukherjee was furious to find that it was still full of refugees when it should have been clear of people. When he questioned a soldier who was in charge of keeping the pass clear, the soldier angrily responded that Mukherjee could shoot his grandmother if he wanted to but that he wouldn’t do it. Meanwhile, another officer radioed in to say that they would blow the pass even if there were people on it.
The Indian army’s plan was to blow up the pass to prevent the zombies from being able to access the safe zone. However, there was an unending stream of refugees desperate to enter the safe zone and the soldiers in charge refused to shoot at them, just as Adler has refused his orders to abandon the civilians. Once again, this interview shows how hard the Redeker Plan was to implement.
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Mukherjee responded that he would never murder these people, and that he would blow the bridge only when the zombies got there—not before. Just then, General Raj-Singh arrived on the scene. Khan says that people don’t believe him when he tells them that he met him. He appeared to be larger than life to him, despite his torn and bloody clothes. The General calmly explained that the road had to be destroyed immediately. He told them that if they were unable or unwilling to do so, the air force had its orders to use thermonuclear weapons to blow up the passes. That would destroy half the mountain and make the safe zone accessible to the undead.
While the armed forces all over the world struggled with the orders they got to abandon or kill civilians, ultimately this seemed to be their only choice if they wanted to save at least a few people in their countries. Wise leaders like General Raj-Singh understood this, which is why they insisted that the high cost had to be borne. 
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General Raj-Singh held out his hand for the detonator, willing to take on the responsibility of the refugees’ deaths because he could see that Mukherjee was unwilling to do so. But the detonator didn’t work when he pressed it—something had gone wrong with the charges on the pass. General Raj-Singh told Khan and Mukherjee to save themselves, and then plunged into the crowds. Khan and Mukherjee decided to follow and help him, but were overwhelmed by the crowd. Khan saw Mukherjee falling off the edge of the mountain, wrestling with a refugee who wanted his gun. Suddenly, Khan could smell and hear the dead approaching. He climbed on top of an abandoned bus and could see them devouring refugees.
General Raj-Singh is a foil to Germany’s General Lang who committed suicide when faced with the challenges of the Redeker Plan. Raj-Singh was heroically willing to detonate the bombs that would have killed the civilians on the pass because no one else wanted to do it. He generously told Khan and Mukherjee to escape before trying to fix the detonators when they didn’t go off. The novel celebrates Raj-Singh as a truly responsible leader, even despite his killing of civilians.
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Khan fell off the bus and was trampled by panicking people, and then managed to hide under the bus. He was hurt and couldn’t move, and tried to bash his own skull in to escape being bitten by the approaching zombies. Suddenly, he heard the roar of a bomb and was thrown up against the bus and lost consciousness. When he came to, he was alone on the mountain path, with a charred cliff wall ahead. The living dead were still trying to get Khan, and were falling off the edge of the blown pass, onto the valley floor below. He guessed that General Raj-Singh had set off the bomb by hand. All the passes had been secured.
Khan was so afraid and desperate to escape the zombies that he tried to kill himself by bashing his own head in—a disturbing image that shows the lengths to which people went in their fear of the zombies. Luckily, General Raj-Singh managed to set off the bomb and secure the pass, and also probably sacrificed his life doing so. In the short appearance Raj-Singh makes in this interview, he proves himself to be kind, practical, and a valiant leader who sacrificed himself to save his country, justifying the admiration he inspires in many characters .
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