Honors American Literature
Friday, April 26, 2013
American Culture of the 1950s
Over the course of American history, many iconic events and movements have taken place that help shape the United States’ role of the past. One decade in particular stands out above the rest as being unique in terms of literature produced and developments that took place. The 1950s harbored the Korean War, Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement among other things. From the Revolutionary period up until the twenty-first century, one thing has remained constant: the importance and role literature plays in the collective culture of a given era. Many works of literature were introduced to society as a direct result of current events while current fads were formed based on the popular works of the time. This is recognizable in some of the prominent literary themes of the fifties. While literature is vital in establishing the originality of culture during the fifties, monumental events such as the Korean War and the Civil Rights Movement simultaneously affect the literature of the decade.
As the decade was beginning, there was significant tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the Soviets were our allies in World War II just five years prior, they were now our most hated and most feared enemies. The ongoing conflict between the US and the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1991 was referred to as the Cold War, as no bullets were actually fired. This being said, the Soviet leader at the time, Joseph Stalin, was showing signs of aggression towards other nations regarding his communistic views. This resulted in the current US president, Harry S. Truman, passing the Truman Doctrine. This was a document that essentially introduced the ideas of containment and the domino theory. Containment was the American campaign to prevent the spread of communism to other countries. The domino theory stated that if the Soviets were to successfully take over one country, others would fall soon thereafter. One country where containment was tested early on was in Korea. In 1950, the US deployed troops to the Korean peninsula to aid the South Koreans and the British to fend off the North Koreans, Chinese, and Soviets. The side the US was on also had full support of the United Nations. Many believed that the US economy would be crippled as a result of entering another war so soon after the most expensive war in American history. However, Truman did exceptionally well in maintaining the American economy. He sustained the United States’ financial power through the introduction of slight increases in taxes. By incorporating this tax raise, he maintained the national budget and did not plunge the country into catastrophic debt. The Korean War ended in a stalemate between the two sides. This conflict is often referred to as the forgotten war despite the loss of 54,000 American lives of more than four million total. Today, Korea is split across the 38th parallel with North Korea being communist and South Korea being democratic. With the US witnessing the first conflict as a direct cause of communism, many begun to wonder what the outcome would be if the Soviets were to overtake the US. This concern led to some very iconic literature based on the themes of violence, the unknown, and what the future may hold.
As stated in the previous paragraph, many works of literature in the fifties resulted from the aura let out by communism and the Korean War. Some of these works include Fahrenheit 451, The Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Night. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 displays the nation’s fear of living in a communistic society. The other works listed contain significant acts of violence, which results from the recently ended fighting in Korea. There were many themes present during the 1950s but themes such as importance of family, being civilized, and...