World War Z

World War Z

by

Max Brooks

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The captain of the submarine that defects from China during the war. His story is narrated by Admiral Xu Zhicai, who clearly admires Chen’s principles and leadership skills. When Captain Chen saw that China was led by an ineffective army that was rapidly losing against the zombies, he believed the nation wouldn’t survive the war. So, he planned on escaping into the sea in a submarine, with his crew, in order to protect a tiny part of their nation. He did his best to smuggle his crew’s families on board, too—a kind gesture that Xu admires. At one point, their submarine was attacked by a Chinese loyalist submarine and Captain Chen thought that his beloved son, Commander Chen, was leading the attack. He fired at the other submarine and destroyed it in order to protect his crew, even though it broke his heart to kill his son. However, he later found out that his son had joined the rebellion against China’s politburo, and, he, too, joined the rebels. Captain Chen decided to fire a nuclear warhead on the politburo’s bunker, and took on full responsibility for the action. He wanted to spare everyone else the weight and guilt of firing on their countrymen. He thought this was the only way forward for China, which went on to implement their version of the Redeker plan under the rebels and finally won the war against the zombies. The novel emphasizes that Captain Chen was a true leader whose patriotism didn’t blind him to the faults of his nation’s leaders, and he took every step he could to save his nation.

Captain Chen Quotes in World War Z

The World War Z quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Chen or refer to Captain Chen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Three Rivers edition of World War Z published in 2006.
Chapter 6: Around the World, and Above Quotes

She…she wouldn’t leave, you see. She insisted, over the objections of Parliament, to remain at Windsor, as she put it, “for the duration.” I thought maybe it was misguided nobility, or maybe fear-based paralysis. I tried to make her see reason, begged her almost on my knees.

What did she say?

“The highest of distinctions is service to others.” […] Their task, their mandate, is to personify all that is great in our national spirit. They must forever be an example to the rest of us, the strongest, and bravest, and absolute best of us.

Page Number: 193-194
Explanation and Analysis:
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Captain Chen Character Timeline in World War Z

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Chen appears in World War Z. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: Around the World, and Above
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
The Cost of War Theme Icon
...They didn’t seem to realize that “every dead soldier was now a live zombie.” Captain Chen was furious at this, and believed that if they continued in this vein, “soon there... (full context)
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
Xu didn’t initially agree, but Chen convinced him that it was the only way forward. They prepared for the departure for... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
...get some. When they saw a deserted coastline, Xu offered to lead a party ashore. Chen, however, was hesitant, and ordered them to blow the foghorn. This immediately brought forth a... (full context)
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
The Cost of War Theme Icon
...around the island suddenly exploded. Another Chinese submarine had fired a missile at it. Captain Chen realized that by staying there, they were putting the island’s civilians in danger, so they... (full context)
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Initially, Captain Chen refused to fight. They bottomed the boat to the deepest level it could go to,... (full context)
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
The Cost of War Theme Icon
Xu explains to the narrator that Captain Chen suspected that his only son was the captain of that submarine, which was why he’d... (full context)
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
...There was a signal on their underwater telephone, and it turned out to be Captain Chen’s son, Commander Chen, who was the captain of the approaching submarine. He proclaimed his intentions... (full context)
Humanity vs. Monstrosity Theme Icon
Captain Chen made the decision to fire a warhead on the politburo who were holed up in... (full context)