Study Guide

Dr. Strangelove What's Up With the Title?

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What's Up With the Title?

Though the movie usually just goes by Dr. Strangelove, its full title is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Let's see if we can figure it out.

The first part's not too tough to pin down. Dr. Strangelove is Dr. Strangelove, the ex-Nazi scientist who now develops weapons for the U.S. It's a little weird that the movie is named after this creepy guy since really he's only a minor character who doesn't do too much in the film besides pontificate and wrestle with his rebellious prosthetic arm. We figure Kubrick chose to name the movie after him because more than any other character, he symbolizes the scientific "progress" that resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb.

What's up with How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb? The film doesn't have any kind of first person narrator, so who is "I" supposed to be? Kubrick? President Muffley? It's not clear. It's true that some of the characters seem to love the bomb; there's a kind of perverse sexual pleasure when Turgidson or Strangelove talk about it. And it is a strange thing to love, that's for sure.

But we think it's a riff on the title of something else. The title reminds Shmoop of a book written in 1948 by a writer named Dale Carnegie, who wrote a famous self-help book in the years before everyone and his brother wrote self- help books. It was titled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.The book was a huge bestseller, and Kubrick probably knew it well. A film about nuclear annihilation would be a perfect irony—everyone starts dying. So we're guessing that the phrasing of the title was probably an ironic reference to Carnegie's book.

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