The Forest of Hands and Teeth Literary Elements

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Literary Elements


Science fiction

Setting and Context

The action takes place in a post-apocalyptic world infected by zombies. The action centers around the only surviving village with humans in it and on the characters living in the said village.

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is Mary and she presents the events from a first person subjective point of view.

Tone and Mood

Violent, tragic

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Mary and the antagonists are the zombies she fights against.

Major Conflict

There are two conflicts in the novel, a general one, through which all the characters go through and a personal one through which Mary goes through. All the characters face death every day since they are surrounded by zombies so the first conflict is between the humans still remaining alive and the zombies trying to kill them. The second conflict is an internal one and is the result of Mary’s incapability of deciding which man she wants in her life.


The story reaches its climax when Mary realizes that her happiness does not depend on Travis but rather on finding the ocean.


The numbers and symbols Mary finds in the room where Gabriella was staying at the Cathedral foreshadows the important those numbers will play in the group’s survival once they reached the trail in the woods.


During the house attack, Mary and Travis manage to escape and even though he was caught by the zombies, Travis claims to be ok. This proves to be an understatement as he later tells Mary that he was infected by a zombie who bit him.


It is alluded that zombies appeared as a punishment from God when humanity tried to be themselves like God and eliminate death. This idea is promoted by Sister Tabitha who reveals partially the reason why zombies appeared in the first place. Also, through this idea, it is implied that the ones responsible for creating the zombies are the humans haunted by the zombies.


An important imagery in the book is that of Gabriella after she was turned into a zombie and after she followed Mary and the rest of the survivors into the forest. There, Mary spotted Gabriella dragging herself to reach the fence, having lost her initial power. When Mary spotted her again, Gabriella was just dragging herself towards the fence instead of running towards it. This image is important because it shows that the zombies in the novel are not as indestructible as they once believed them to be.


From the beginning of the book, it becomes clear that Mary does not like the Sisters. Paradoxically however, when the zombies attack the village where Mary stays in, the Sisters are the only ones willing to put their life in danger to save Mary and Harry.


A parallel can be drawn between the Sisters in the book and the nuns that exist in various convents all over the world. Just like the nuns today, the Sisters were expected to stay inside the Church, not to speak unless it was to pray, and to be obedient at all times.

Metonymy and Synecdoche




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