Plot Synopsis for "The Bomb" by Theodore Taylor

by Ginger Yapp

North Carolina--born nuclear physicist and author Theodore Taylor ("The Cay") dropped "The Bomb" -- a piece of historical fiction protesting the 1944 nuclear experiments on the Bikini Atoll -- to great acclaim in 1995. Over time, "The Bomb" has become recommended educational reading for middle school-- and high school--aged students.


The novel follows a small town in March 1944, during the time when the United States had begun testing the atomic bomb on the Bikini Atoll, part of the Ralik island chain. The island is being guarded by unfriendly Japanese soldiers who had invaded the island in 1942. After the Americans come to the island to liberate it from the Japanese, the Americans force the native people to agree to move out. The only voices of dissent come from Abram and his 14-year-old nephew, Sorry. Will Sorry be able to prevent the island from becoming a testing site?


The novel's protagonist is the 14-year-old Sorry Rinamu, who lives in a small, modest hut with his mother, Ruta, and his sister, Lokileni. Sorry is very clever and ends up being the island's one last hope. Following a plan from his uncle Abram -- who dies of a heart attack before he can complete his plan -- Sorry puts himself in harm's way in an attempt to stop the Americans from bombing the island.


Though the novel is intended for young teenagers, it makes some powerful points about imperialism and colonialism. The Americans "liberate" the atoll from the Japanese only to seize control of the area and use it for their own means. They treat the people living on the atoll as if they are children, lying about returning the land to them after a year. Author Taylor had seen the effects of the atomic bomb and recognized its socioeconomic significance.


Though Taylor's most popular and award-winning novel was the similarly themed "The Cay," "The Bomb" was awarded the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 1996. Because of its important political and social commentary, the book has been mandatory reading in many classrooms across the country. The novel has been lauded for its accuracy; Taylor was aided in part by his memories working on the deck of a ship near the atoll during the bomb testing.