April 30, 2014


Marriage and the Zombie Apocalypse


Wick Welker

As the divorce rate in the United States increases at what some would consider an alarming rate, it’s natural to speculate on the root causes of matrimonial decline. A conservative person might argue that it is the corruption of traditional marriage; as we attempt to redefine marriage we dilute its meaning and become desensitized to its purpose. On the other hand, a more liberal-oriented person may state that the disintegration of marriage has more to do with lowered cultural standards that are being placed on fathers. It has become more socially acceptable for children to grow up in a fatherless home to be raised by mothers and grandmothers.

A myriad of other causes include financial stressors, pregnancy, differences in raising children, having children with special needs, cultural misconceptions, psychiatric illness, personality disorders, undue expectations about a spouse, infidelity, pornography and many other reasons. Although it may be even more of an exercise in futility to speculate what is the root cause of most divorces, most causes could probably be overcome, even in cases of infidelity, if the two partners in the marriage don’t become complacent. Complacency is the kiss of death in any marriage no matter what obstacles there may be.

In the fictional setting of a zombie apocalypse, the average married couple may find themselves in a complacent state before the zombie outbreak actually occurs. As in any other marriage, they have become used to their own routines, maybe even losing a little of the charm in their spouse that they found so alluring before they were married. There is always a reason (usually a good one) why two people even want to get married in the first place. It can be the monotony of the average dull day, multiplied by years, which can make a couple forget the feel of wanting to be married. This is how a couple may find themselves at the onset of a zombie outbreak.

If we further develop the idea that complacency can be a major cause of a marriage not working, we can assume that if two people can reignite the original feelings and desires that they had to begin with this could, in theory, reconcile the marriage. Many couples attempt this by going on vacation, maintaining a weekly “date night”, or just getting away from the kids. Rather than simply trying to recreate nostalgic feelings, there may be another approach.

The process of meeting someone, dating them for an appropriate amount of time, getting into fights, breaking up, getting back together and getting engaged is fraught with conflict. Conflict, in general, proves that getting married is worth it. It validates that, yes I do want to marry this person because I have been to hell and back with them and I still love them. Authentic conflict is vital to prove to yourself that you know the real person you’re going to marry. The zombie apocalypse, a time where the social constructs begins to crumble around a couple, provide the context and conflict where two people’s feelings can be validated towards one another once again.

As the married couple is thrust into the apocalyptic world where they suddenly can’t drive on the roads, can’t call each other, have no idea where their children are and don’t even know if each other is alive, they are shocked back into the emotional catharsis that they once knew. They think, “wait, what if I suddenly lose the closest person to me that I have in the world?”

The zombie apocalypse provides the setting and conflict for two people in marriage to realize their own complacency. The zombies themselves even help them understand the loss of humanity that can occur to a person and motivates them with the fear of losing their spouse to a terrifying limbo of being stuck in the realm of the undead.

The zombies become a reminder of the corruptible nature of the mortality of their spouse. A person, through the years of marriage, can take on the illusion of permanence in their spouse’s life. This permanence is a misconception that the zombie apocalypse can quickly tear down making a person realize the fragility of their physical marriage. The zombie apocalypse becomes the clarifying looking glass into the importance of marriage that was clouded by the monotony of every day life.

In my novel, Medora, I attempted to show the pressures that the average marriage would experience during the acute outbreak of a zombie virus. Keith and Ellen are portrayed as a young married couple with a grade-school daughter who become separated by the outbreak during a normal, mundane morning.

Keith and Ellen experience the fear of loss of one another, which becomes their motivation for the rest of the novel. In the morning before the outbreak, Keith doesn’t talk or even think about his wife. He becomes inundated with his routine tasks at work. However as Keith later stumbles around in New York subway tunnels running from a subway train that crashed into a mound of bodies, he becomes consumed with grief at the potential loss of his wife and daughter. As his work life has crumbled away in an instant, he is reminded of the only thing that ever really mattered.

When Keith finally becomes reunited with Ellen, he now sees her anew; in a way he hadn’t seen her since back when they were dating:

Turning around, he saw his wife looking up into his eyes. She stared at him, her eyes vibrant and calming. He wondered how she could be so shocking and beautiful after being beaten and burned half to death.

Not only does her physical appearance take on new depth to Keith, he also begins to appreciate the bravery and fortitude that she exhibits during the rest of the novel as they continue to search for their daughter. Keith is even reminded of their dating life before they were married and reflects on how lucky he was to have married Ellen. The reflection and renewed joy over his marriage wouldn’t have happened if he had had the same, boring workday that morning.

The lesson we can learn from how a marriage endures in a zombie apocalypse is that every marriage at anytime will experience conflict. A husband and wife scarcely need a horde of zombies chasing after them to realize that they do still indeed love each other.  Conflict is an inherit part of marriage and it becomes an opportunity for each spouse to get to know how each other responds and it also rekindles their passion for one another. As every marriage inevitably experiences conflict, the test of endurance is if each spouse shrivels from complacency or if they step forward with patience and bravery to remember why they married in the first place.

Wick Welker is a medical doctor currently training as an Anesthesiology resident in Seattle, Washington. 

His book, Medora, is his first zombie novel with the sequel to follow later this year.

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