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Fallout by Todd Strasser
Transcript of Fallout by Todd Strasser
The summer of 1962 is supposed to be filled with baseball, swimming and other summertime fun. But when a nuclear bomb is dropped on the United States will Scott be able to recover from the blast?
An eleven year old boy living in the perfect suburban neighborhood during the height of the cold war. Scott is a usually well behaved kid, except for when he's with Ronnie, his best friend.
A business man in the day, Scott's father doesn't like to take risks. So when the threat of a nuclear bomb becomes real Scott's father wastes no time in having a bomb shelter built even though his wife and he have yet to agree on it.
Mr. & Mrs. Shaw
by Todd Strasser
Sparky (whose real name is Edward) is Scott's younger brother. Sparky is still young enough that clings closely to his mother and father before and after the bomb goes off. Sparky is the stereotypical annoying younger brother, always picking on Scott, being nosy, and getting Scott into trouble.
Sexuality & Control
Sexuality is an underlying theme throughout the story. From being called queer to looking for
the boys in this book are eager to talk about all things sex.
Questions to ponder
During the time in the shelter, the people become more animal like wanting to kill off two people so there are more rations to go around, one of whom is Scott's mother. This begs two important questions.
What behavior is "human"? (i.e. Would it be okay to kill two people so the rest can survive or is that too wild and animal like?)
Secondly, what determines the worth of a human life? (i.e. is Scotts mother worth keeping alive? What is the point of living if the bomb has killed off everything else?)
FallOut does a wonderful job of posing a third, yet equally interesting question. We are ruled by social constructs. When exactly can/do we stop following those social constructs?
For example, while in the shelter the survivors bathe, with it being such a small space it's almost impossible to not see the person bathing. Survivors also have to go to the bathroom in front of each other and eventually are wearing next to nothing after using their clothing as rags. In all these cases the children and other adults are exposed to nudity, however it has become acceptable. With these examples when does it become okay to disregard our societal rules?
The plot is easy to follow but can become confusing at times. There are two stories, one explaining what is happening between the members in the fallout shelter and the other narrating the story before the bomb went off. Every other chapter has the story from one side, almost as if trying to parallel the experience in the shelter with the events that happened before. Sometimes it's difficult to understand where the previous experiences fit in with the characters actions in the fallout shelter. Some of the events that take place seem a bit mature for the ages of the characters in my opinion.
The story is simple, the nuclear arms race has come to a head and there are only two kinds of people left; those who think there will be a nuclear war and those who don't. Scotty's dad is not one to take war lightly and opts to take precautions, installing a fallout shelter underground and building a new addition on top.
Many of Scott's neighbors pick on his family saying they're paranoid but when the bomb does go off, guess where everyone runs to. Janet, their African American maid joins them as well but on the way down, Scott's mother falls and becomes unconscious. Once a few close neighbors pry open the door from Scott's father and join them in the shelter, Scott and Ronnie's fathers must lock all the others out.
Muffled screams and then a boom, silence. The adults already know what has happened. Now all they can do is count the days and wait for the radiation to go down. But with supplies for four people and ten people in the shelter, can they make the supplies last long enough or will the survivors have a
Throughout most of the book Scott's mother actually unconcious in the shelter. From what we hear of her in flashbacks we can assume she is very anxious about the war and more than likely a stay at home mother.
Mr. & Mrs. Shaw are Ronnie's parents
Though their parenting techniques are questionable they are one of the few groups of people Scott's father lets in the shelter.
Ronnie is Scott's best friend even though he's always getting into trouble and bringing Scott along for the ride.
Janet is the house cleaner and babysitter for Scott and Sparky. With a husband and two kids outside the shelter, Janet's thoughts are somewhere else.
Mr. McGovern & Paula
Mr. McGovern is Paula's father and neighbors to Scott. Paula's mother is left outside of the shelter when the bomb goes off. Paula is the apple of the pubescent boys eyes which only makes the time in the shelter weirder.
"Watch this ," Ronnie said, and crossed the street to where Paula was standing behind her bike, talking to Linda. He went behind Paula, reached for the back of her shirt, pulled something underneath, and then let go. Even across the street you could hear the snapping sound" (116).
"you could always look at your father's
", Ronnie said. I don't think my father has any," I said. "All father's have
," Ronnie insisted. "Look in his closet. If they're not there, look in his dresser drawer under his shirts" (132).
"Ronnie's grin grew broader. "You don't know what queer means," he sang, like it was a line from a song" (161).
"Guess what I saw tonight?" Ronnie asked. "The moon and that Echo satellite." "How about Paula's bedroom?" (246)
Connections to Cart
The author of FallOut, Todd Strasser, invites readers to look at his webpage dedicated to the book, http://hisheulb.wix.com/fallout. Here readers have the oppotunity to learn more about Todd and his story. He also provides links to other educational resources such as the duck and cover video used in school and a link to a civil defense film. At the end of the book there is one picture of Todd as a child otherwise there isn't a lot of nonfiction material included in the book. However this book would be a great novel to read before learning about the cold war.
Throughout the story there is a constant pull for control. Between the Russians and the united states and Scott's father and Mr. McGovern someone has to be in charge.
"Dad gethers himself up. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Over... my... dead... body." "It won't be just your dead body- it will be everyone's," Mr. Mcgovern continues, then turns to the Shaws. "Who gave him the right to make decisions for all of us? Because it's his bomb shelter? I'm sorry, but I don't think that matters anymore. We're all in this together now. Are you really comfortable putting your lives in his hands? Letting him decide how much we eat and drink?" (166)