Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

2201 words - 9 pages

Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb presents a satire of the Cold War and nuclear warfare. The film stars comedian Peter Sellers in three different roles, including the president, a Royal Air Force officer, and the title character of Dr. Strangelove—a character who does not play a major role in the action until the final scene of the film. The film itself was adapted by Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, and Terry Southern from George’s thriller novel Red Alert and was originally intended to be a drama, but was made into a satirical black comedy in the writing process (Webster 33). In the final scene, the leaders of the American government are gathered in the War Room awaiting nuclear fallout from the Soviet’s “Doomsday Machine,” since they had failed to completely prevent a nuclear strike called in by a paranoid general. The “Doomsday Machine” is a fictional deterrent that will irradiate the entire world and cause all human and animal life to go extinct for one hundred years if a nuclear bomb is detonated (Kagan 123). This analysis will focus on two persuasive speeches that are given by the title character, Dr. Strangelove—an enigmatic German scientist with an alien hand—and General Turgidson—a strong anti-Communist, American general with a strong distrust of the Soviet ambassador. In the first argument, Dr. Strangelove proposes to the President the idea of utilizing mine shafts to ensure the survival of the human race, supporting his claim with scientific reasoning and appealing to the government men’s sexual desires. In the second argument, General Turgidson strategically argues to avoid the “mine shaft gap,” in which the Soviets may use the destruction of the world as opportunity to overcome the Americans by taking over their mine shafts. In the original cut, the film was supposed to end in a custard pie fight between everyone in the war room, though this was cut for artistic and political reasons, since the film was released very shortly after the Kennedy assassination (Coyle 48-49).
This rhetorical analysis will look at Dr. Strangelove’s argument, General Turgidson’s argument, and the argument that Stanley Kubrick is trying to make with both of these arguments on the absurd state of warfare. To do this I will look at the ways that each of these arguments use the Aristotelian appeals of pathos, logos, and ethos to convince their audience of their argument. Additionally, to supplement the Aristotelian appeals, I will look at the audiences in and outside of the film, the techniques Kubrick uses in relation to pathos, and the kairos of when the film was released theatrically.
In Dr. Strangelove’s argument for utilizing mine shafts to preserve “a nucleus of human specimens,” the audience includes the president of the United States as well as the other government leaders that are present in the War Room. His overall argument focuses on the scientific factors of maintaining human survivors...

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