Family Ties In Alden Bell’s The Reapers Are The Angels

935 words - 4 pages

In Alden Bell’s The Reapers are the Angels, the family unit persists in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Although not seemingly normal, nor resembling the quintessential nuclear family, the idea of family is very present throughout Temple’s journey. Most families of this post-apocalyptic world operate under a strong sense of denial; a hope that the old world will seep through the seams of the nightmare that sadly is reality. They desperately grasp at traditions of the past with confidence that someday the universe will revert back to its previous state. A blind hope and erroneous optimism guides these groups through the now bleak wasteland; however, hope for a better future is not portrayed as a negative mentality in the novel. Appearing to be useless while remaining amongst their bloodthirsty neighbors, the family endures with confidence. This baseless optimism has pulled the American family through war torn decades and crippling depressions throughout history. Often hope is unjustified and seems unrealistic, but strangely enough, that is why hope exists in the first place.
Standing completely frozen in the 19th century, Belle Isle, an estate that shelters the Grierson family in the novel represents a more traditional, yet tremendously odd, depiction of the familial unit. The household holds Grandmother Grierson, brothers Richard and James, and two African-American servants Johns and Maisie. The presence of these two servants clearly differentiates the residence from the modern day, illustrating a more peculiar, backwards way of thinking. The family chooses to shield themselves from the surrounding undead by pleading pure ignorance. Characters such as the Grandmother and Richard reside in fantasies of the old world, while also trusting that it will stand once again. The gleaming optimism from these characters is brought to life when Richard states, “All these books. Hundreds of them. I know what it was like- what it’s going to be like again. Grandmother says it’s only a matter of time” (Bell 94). With this statement, Bell portrays a family desperately searching for light in spite of the darkness that continues to swallow the world.
Falling parallel with tones of the classic southern gothic, the Griersons appear tame on the surface; yet also house a dark secret. The manor’s basement holds their Father. In a cage, the now decrepit, rotting man focuses only on satisfying his primal instincts. He is a member of the zombie community with a taste for human flesh. Despite the father’s condition, the family refuses to let him go. This situation not only shows a sense of denial that he is lost forever to the destructive infection, but also comments on the love that the Griersons have for one another. Although morbid and dangerous, Father Grierson’s circumstance proves that love still exists after all...

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