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Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

Notes on Joyce Carol Oates´s ¨Zombie¨


Zombie (1995) is a novel inspired by real life serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. In the novel, the main character Quentin wants to 'create' the perfect companion by kidnapping young men and modifying their brains in order to dominate and control them. During his many failed (and murderous) attempts, he notices that he begins to enjoy the killing more than the companionship.


  • Bram Stoker Award: Superior Achievement in a Novel

  • Fisk Fiction Prize, Boston Book Review

  • New York Times Notable Books of the Year


Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994), also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, was an American serial killer and sex offender, who committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism, and the permanent preservation of body parts—typically all or part of the skeletal structure.

Describing the increase in his rate of killing in the two months prior to his arrest, he stated he had been "completely swept along" with his compulsion to kill, adding: "It was an incessant and never-ending desire to be with someone at whatever cost. Someone good looking, really nice looking. It just filled my thoughts all day long."



  • the relationship between race and ideal democratic citizenship in post-civil rights era America (the discussion was begun by the actual Dahmer case):
    - “In my heart,” he says, “I did not plead GUILTY because I was NOT GUILTY & am not. But it was a RACIAL MATTER, too. The boy was black & Q_P_ is white”
    - Q_P_’s lawyer is just “grateful that they didn’t draw a black judge”
    - Q_P_’s position as a “caretaker” of a building for nonwhite residents is also indicative of his own dehumanization by other white characters: even Mr. T_, Q_P_’s white probation officer, finds it strange. When he learns that his client is the caretaker, he never questions Q_P_’s suitability for the job or that he may relapse, given his criminal record, and can be a danger to his tenants. Instead, he seems more worried about Q_P_’s tenants being a danger to Q_P_. He is rude to them and pushes his way through them. After he forces them to leave the room, he tells Q_P_ that it “must be a little weird for a white man, white caretaker, for them, eh?” He suggests that a “real” white man does not take care of anyone, particularly nonwhites. Then, aware that his words can be interpreted as racist (but also sexist), Mr. T_ quickly recovers by insisting that he “doesn’t mean anything by it” and that he’s “got lots of black friends. I’m speaking of history”


  • Meaning of the title: Zombies, in fact, are portrayed as living dead creatures, that, though still alive, can exert no control over their own bodies. They need to feed on human flesh, so as to absorb the life they lack through cannibalism; they belong to a definite territory, though not much is known about their real origins (thus, unlike vampires, not embodying the alien or the foreign invader); they usually destroy a domestic and/or romantic or familiar setting; finally, they are immortal. These characteristics are symbolically ascribable to both zombies and serial killers. Consequently, the social monster, who wants to subtract life from his victims, reproduces the archetypal monster, who materially denies and overcomes his own death


  • ending racialized and gendered violence goes beyond legal recognition of social equality; it also requires the recognition and destruction of mental constructs that create these oppressive, dehumanizing arrangements
  • acceptance of dominant cultural beliefs in white straight male supremacy
  • part of society’s designated “out groups,” such as drug addicts, homosexuals and racial minorities (especially blacks): the disappearance of one of their members is less likely to attract public attention or concern
  • accusation of using typical stereotypes: a clear boundary between the “normal” (the lawabiding citizen) and the “abnormal” (the deviant serial killer)



Zombie has been made into a short film by Bill Connington, who also adapted the novella for the stage:https://youtu.be/e3yxxRI_8Ig


Joyce Carol Oates denies that Quentin P_ is “an allegorical figure” and insists that this character is so different from the people around him that he is, “virtually a subspecies in their midst” (“Psycho Killer”).