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Abstract

From the emergence of giant insects on the big screen, to the bomb tests on well-dressed mannequin families, the 1950s mark a captivating period of history and culture dominated by the presence of atomic power. However, atomic power was strongly tied to increasingly intense developments in the Cold War, disrupting the optimism Americans felt following World War II. This project examines the experiences of Americans during this time, focusing on the youth who confronted a future that they could lose at any moment. Youth were exposed to messages from the government and larger culture inspiring both fear and captivation with atomic power. Youth also dealt with the transformation of their communities into war preparedness zones. This project thus utilizes various historical sources to reveal how youth became familiar with atomic knowledge and themes of survival. This project also looks at the different responses youth made toward this learning process to highlight their capacity to shape their own understandings about the world. In doing so, this research offers a character study of a generation in which the threat of nuclear war significantly influenced who they would become as adults.

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