Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Jennifer Taw


This thesis aims to respond to the following question: How does the depiction of terrorists in popular fiction novels compare to the explanations in academia as to why individuals become terrorists and join terrorist organizations? Is this fictional depiction a reflection or distortion of reality, and what insights can we take away from this comparison? The argument of this thesis is that fiction’s depiction of terrorists is both a reflection and distortion of reality, as it presents a unique creative, emotionally resonant narrative that humanizes the terrorists. By giving a voice to their motivations and experiences, readers are able to empathize, relate to, and engage with these terrorists characters as rational, emotional human beings instead of vicious monsters or killing machines. To support this argument, this thesis (a) outlines the conventional wisdoms that pervade the current, popular narrative of terrorism discourse, (b) discusses the academic theories and explanations that challenge these conventional wisdoms, and (c) analyzes five contemporary fiction novels on terrorism, focusing on whether their characterizations of terrorists play into the conventional wisdoms or diverge from them and present a more nuanced, complex depiction.