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Rhetoric of Antinuclear Fiction

Written By:Patrick Mannix - 1992

  • Rhetoric of Antinuclear Fiction - Patrick Mannix cover


Patrick Mannix reveals what sorts of fictional characters have been most widely used to deliver antinuclear messages, and he follows the major arguments of the nuclear debate as they have been reflected in fiction. He also shows which emotions are invoked most often to secure the audience's opposition to nuclear weapons and how those emotions have been generated by the creators of antinuclear fiction. The range of characters that this volume examines includes the pacifistic but loyal Air Force general of Fail-Safe, the pious but shrewd monks of A Canticle for Leibowitz, the suburban housewife of Threads, and even the computer of War-games, which teaches humanity the folly of nuclear war. We also follow fictional manifestations of the nuclear debate from veiled arguments for world government in The Day the Earth Stood Still, through warnings of the dangers of Mutual Assured Destruction depicted by Fail-Safe, Dr. Strangelove, and Wargames, to attacks on the concepts of limited nuclear war and the Strategic Defense Initiative in War Day. This study also demonstrates the dynamic of fear in works as diverse as Ape and Essence, The Day After, and Them!, and dissects the powerful use of scorn in Dr. Strangelove. It also shows us the paradoxical role of hope in securing the effectiveness of antinuclear fiction. While maintaining his focus on the persuasive nature of this literature, Mannix does consider the aesthetic value of the fiction he studies, noting that the relationship between the two elements is complex and often problematical. While admitting that the aesthetic elements of some works would limit their audience and therefore reduce the scope of their rhetorical effect, he demonstrates how the skillful combination of artistic and rhetorical elements raises a film like Dr. Strangelove above the similarly themed Fail-Safe as both a persuasive act and an aesthetic artifact.