55 pages 1 hour read

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Louise Penny

State of Terror

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Symbols & Motifs

Nuclear Bombs

The terrorist plot in State of Terror concerns three nuclear bombs planted by terrorists in three cities in the United States. The bombs are the main threat in the novel, and they have important symbolic value. Most pointedly, the nuclear bombs represent the unrestrained threat of Bashir Shah. While terrorists can make and use conventional bombs (as evidenced in the bus attacks), the nuclear bombs represent a different kind of threat. The materials and institutional support required to make a nuclear bomb mean that their manufacture is typically limited to nation states, rather than organizations. By making and selling nuclear bombs, Shah demonstrates that he is more dangerous than any other terrorist in history. He does not just want to arm Al-Qaeda with weapons; he wants to challenge the extant system of nation states which hold exclusive privilege over the use of nuclear weapons. In other words, Shah’s nuclear bombs symbolize an existential threat to the global political order.

One of Shah’s bombs is placed beneath the White House. The location has an important symbolic value which also emphasizes Shah’s innovative intentions. Shah and the people with whom he works are seeking to bring down the American political system.

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