This essay explores the role of African-American and ethnic characters in three once-influential post-atomic novels. In each, the white response (both physical and emotional) to the bomb's deleterious effects contrasts with the seeming imperviousness or obliviousness to the bomb demonstrated by black, Jewish, or European ethnic supporting figures. Their situation "outside" the bomb enables these racially marked characters to move more freely through the post-atomic landscape than their often-constrained white counterparts, but almost always in service to the white families centered by the narrative. As many cultural historians have examined the role of the black servant figure in film and literature, so here the black "savior-servant-savants" who enable white survival in the wake of atomic disaster perform their vital function at the expense of their own humanity—a realistic, dimensionalized, human engagement with the bomb's significance.


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pp. 122-138
Launched on MUSE
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