Silo Psychosis: Diagnosing America’s Nuclear Anxieties Through Narrative Imagery

  • Charles E. Gannon


The Cold War psychology — and often, psychopathology — of American culture was frequently acted out, and tellingly disclosed, through narrative articulations of its nuclear stream of consciousness: symbolic shadow-plays of new weapons and maybe-wars with which it both amused and indoctrinated itself over a long period of mushroom-clouded M.A.D.-ness. However, an optimally rigorous and revealing inquiry into American obsessions with, and representations of, the bomb might best be achieved through a comparative analysis which employs cross-cultural contrasts to bring the unique characteristics of U.S. nuclear nightmares into high relief. In particular, comparisons between British and American images of the bomb — and its aftermath — can be used to highlight the key features of America’s nuclear psychology, to explain their uniqueness, and to reveal the influence of nuclear weapons upon the consciousness of both the nation’s political elites and general public.


Atomic Bomb American Film Limited Strike American Thought Home Island 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    H. G. Wells, The World Set Free (London: Macmillan, 1914).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Patrick Mannix, The Rhetoric of Antinuclear Fiction: Persuasive Strategies in Novels and Films (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1992), pp. 82–83, 137.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    This essay is included in her landmark collection, Against Interpretation (New York: Dell, 1966).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Vivian Sobchack, ‘The Violent Dance: A Personal Memoir of Death in the Movies,’ Journal of Popular Film, 31 (Winter 1974): 2–14.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, in The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds: A Critical Edition, ed. Frank D. McConnell (1898; New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Whitley Strieber and James Kunetkâs War Day: And the Journey Onward (1984) is a semi-documentary narrative. Testament is a film based on Carol Amen’s ‘The Last Testament’ (1980).Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Jacqueline Smetak, ‘Sex and Death in Nuclear Holocaust Literature of the 1950s,’ in The Nightmare Considered: Critical Essays on Nuclear War Literature, ed. Nancy Anisfield (Bowling Green, Oh: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991), p. 21.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Helen Caldicott, Missile Envy (Bantam: New York, 1985), p. 319.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, Fail-Safe (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962), pp. 123–4.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Spencer Weart, Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 82.Google Scholar
  11. Weart advances, and makes credible, the claim that ‘Astounding’s stories did more than any factual article to tell the meaning of fission’. There were other stories at that time which dealt with the same issue. One famous example is Lester Del Rey’s ‘Nerves’, Astounding, 30 (September 1942).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles E. Gannon

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations