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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546

The premise of Dread Nation centers on the fact that after the Battle of Gettysburg, dead soldiers rose as zombies and changed the course of the nation. Jane McKeene, the main character, is born just before this happens. Justina Ireland writes:

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I suppose I might have grown up better, might have become a proper house girl or even taken Aunt Aggie’s place as House Negro. I might have been a good girl if it had been in the cards. But all of that was dashed to hell two days after I was born, when the dead rose up and started to walk on a battlefield in a small town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.

This is the defining center of Jane's life. It's what gives her the education she is required to get by law to kill the shamblers. Without that education and the threat of the dead people, her life would be completely different.

Despite the fact that the world has changed, racism still exists in society. Both African and Native American children have to spend a certain amount of time in school. There, they learn to protect people. Even this education and this type of career doesn't stop people from demeaning them. Jane says:

I say nothing, but Katherine looks like she’s about to cry. The sheriff has taken every opportunity to insult us and remind us of the circumstance of our dark skin, and I’d like nothing more than to tell him what I think. I can take down a pack of shamblers like nobody’s business. I am clever and can work my way out of any bad situation. I know I am more than my skin color.

She has to repeatedly bite her tongue to get out of bad situations and find a way to live in the world around her. Like other people in her school, she is used to being put down and criticized by those in power. It started when the midwife at her birth clearly thought about killing her and continues throughout the novel.

By the end of the book, things have completely fallen apart and the city is swollen with...

(The entire section contains 546 words.)

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