Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Death, Literature, Symbolism, Children, Family, Zombie, Life, Power

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/06

Monster stories are often most effective when they serve as symbols or allegories for greater human concerns. Most effective as a symbol is the zombie – that lifeless, shambling reminder of one’s mortality and eventual uselessness. In Michael Swanwick’s short story, “The Dead,” the zombie is used as a metaphor for several different things, all relating to the anxieties of industrialization and automation of labor. The human characters are upper-class businessmen and women, who allow zombies to serve menial jobs in manufacturing, as wait staff, and as entertainment. The dead are referred to as “Postanthropic biological resources,” and become a symbol for the marginalized lower classes whose life roles are merely to clean up after the decadent rich (Swanwick). A recurring motif is the dismissive way the upper-class treats the working-class humans, who become a liability simply because they require actual food and sleep, unlike zombies: “Fuck ’em. They’ve been getting a goddamn free ride for too long; the least they can do is to die and provide us with servants” (Swanwick). The narrator seems to be one of the few men alive in positions of power who care about humans, as the cold Courtney fully embraces the conspicuous consumerism that allows her to live in luxury. By the end, when Courtney stops their sexual arrangement in exchange for giving them both undead sexual servants, a complete separation from human connection is realized. In this story, Swanwick uses the zombie to symbolize both the marginalized working classes (who are literally treated like meat by the 1%) and the mechanization of industrialization that puts the real working class out of a job.
In “This Year’s Class Picture,” zombies are used to address yet another interesting societal problem – the difficulties of teaching and the generational gap between the elderly and the young. The elderly Ms. Geiss, presumably one of the last teachers on earth, keeps herself busy by maintaining her routine of teaching a classroom full of children in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. The children all being undead, Ms. Geiss has them chained up and de-fanged to ensure her safety, and establishes a firm ‘killing zone’ around the school to maintain her safety. She is given quite a measure of solace from her life at the school, as she no longer fears the children now that they are dead and contained. In this way, the zombie children seem to fulfill a power fantasy that this elderly teacher has of being able to actually control her students – which is accomplished through these grotesque measures. In this way, the story becomes allegorical to the difficulties of teaching, particularly when one does not get any respect as an old woman in front of delinquent children. The end of the story, in which the zombie children choose to take their seats after being set free, offers a fulfilling conclusion to her power fantasy, as Ms. Geiss accomplishes what she could not achieve with real children: getting them to behave and listen to her. “This Year’s Class Picture” uses zombies to personify the often alienating and intimidating nature of rambunctious adolescents for teachers, as well as the frustration of getting them to listen and behave. Macabrely enough, Ms. Geiss’ solution seems to advocate for the use of corporal punishment to get children to behave, offering a slice of dark comedy among the social commentary.
While zombies are often used as commodities or allegories for mindless, lifeless things that can be manipulated, vampires, by contrast, are much more predatory and deliberate. For example, in the story “Kissing Dead Boys,” vampires are seen as a clear allegory for date rapists and sexual predators – the protagonist, a teenage girl, sets out to honeypot vampires who seek young female victims and take her revenge on them. The way her encounter with the vampire she picks up plays out is similar to power fantasies women may have of fighting off sexual assault – vampire attacks being a natural metaphor for sexual activity/assault, the protagonist wants to ‘take back the night,’ in a sense, by eliminating vampires before they have a chance to attack again. In this story, as compared to the zombie-centric short stories, the vampires themselves have agency and intention – they are something to fear rather than something to use. In the other two stories, zombies are evidence of lifeless beings that can be utilized by living humans, who are clearly smarter than them, for whatever use they might have. As symbols for mechanized labor and the servant class, as well as (subjectively) mindless and inattentive schoolchildren, their purpose as symbols are meant to illustrate the frustrations individuals have against an aggregate. The vampires in “Kissing Dead Boys,” however, are a symbol of an active, knowing societal problem that needs to be solved – sexual predators and rapists. Whereas the vampires know they are doing evil, zombies are symbolic of passive, unknowing problems within society that have little to do with them (e.g. the loss of the working class and the failings of our education system).

Works Cited

Klause, Annette Curtis. “Kissing Dead Boys.” In The Restless Dead, Deborah Noyes (ed.).
Simmons, Dan. “This Year’s Class Picture.” In The Living Dead, John Joseph Adams (ed.),
Swanwick, Michael. “The Dead.”

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2021, January, 06) Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from
"Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples." WePapers, 06 Jan. 2021, Accessed 27 May 2024.
WePapers. 2021. Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples., viewed May 27 2024, <>
WePapers. Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples. [Internet]. January 2021. [Accessed May 27, 2024]. Available from:
"Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples." WePapers, Jan 06, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2024.
WePapers. 2021. "Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved May 27, 2024. (
"Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples," Free Essay Examples -, 06-Jan-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 27-May-2024].
Symbolism And Allegory In Zombie And Vampire Fiction Literature Review Samples. Free Essay Examples - Published Jan 06, 2021. Accessed May 27, 2024.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now