Taking its critical cue from notions of a United States “containment culture,” developed by Alan Nadel and Elaine Tyler May, this article locates Judith Merril’s atomic war novel, Shadow on the Hearth (1950), in early Cold War political contexts. Contrary to readings that see Gladys, Merril’s protagonist, as liberated by her experiences, it argues that the text shows how she remains compromised by the domestic culture that has produced her. Indeed, the scenario of atomic attack is a device that exposes the effects of prevailing domestic ideologies and their origins in the geopolitics of the early Cold War. The suburban home emerges not as a place of retreat from the uncertainties of a newly nuclear and threatening world, but as a crucible in which contemporary anxieties can only be imperfectly contained.

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