Friday, April 3, 2009

Local zombies

I'm about halfway through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is just as silly as I thought it would be. There's even a Reader's Discussion Guide in the back, including the question, "Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?"

Well, I can, actually. But it's amazing how even a little zombie mayhem changes the feel of the book and is keeping me on edge every time the Bennet girls walk to Meryton. The journeys thus far led to this discussion between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth during the ball at Netherfield: "He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often meet with zombies on their walks to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation, added, 'When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.'" That would be Wickham, of course, whose fate, thus far, is unclear.

To my surprise, however, this book is making me think of some rather serious stuff. It reminded me first of all of the Night Commuters, a phenomenon that has blessedly decreased with the reduction of violence in Northern Uganda. The Night Commuters were children who would walk into the bigger cities from outlying villages to avoid being abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army. In 2003, "an average of 30 children every day were snatched from boarding schools and homes, according to UNICEF."

Terrified of abductions, which almost always took place at night, the children began to sleep in the towns, where it was harder for rebels to attack. Parents stayed behind in the villages to watch over their possessions. They, too, have been the victims of rebel kidnappings, but children are the main targets. An estimated 34,000 children have been abducted since 1994.

The other thing it made me think of were some of the posts from one of my favorite bloggers, Ta-Nehisi Coates. It reminded me of a particular post I was glad I could find for you, talking about the achievement gap:

When I was in middle school in Baltimore, I spent almost as much time trying to figure how not to catch a beatdown, as I did figuring out my studies. Eventually, I landed on a strategy that embraced violence more than it avoided it--always travel in a pack, and respond swiftly and immediately to any challenge. This is logic of so many of our kids.
And this, in P&P&Z, is exactly how the Bennet girls deal with the zombies on the road to Meryton. I imagine this is true in a lot of places.

No answers. It just made me think that zombies take many forms, some more obvious than others.

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