1950s Nostalgia Real and Imagined:
A Structural Analysis of Stephanie Coontz’s “What We Really Miss about the 1950s”
Stephanie Coontz is a professor of Family History at the Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington. She is a nationally recognized expert on the family and an award winning writer. In her 1997 book “The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America’s Changing Families”, Stephanie Coontz wrote an essay entitled “What We Really Miss about the 1950s”. In Stephanie Coontz’s “What We Really Miss about the 1950s”, she argues that we as a country collectively remember the 1950s with a nostalgic tone, but we are not remembering this era in its entirety, nor are we completely accurate. She explains that the family and economic life that we remember and long for does not represent the whole truth of that era by any means.
Coontz keeps a semi-formal tone throughout this essay. She begins by acknowledging the nostalgia that America feels toward the 1950s era. She continues by reminding us that there are also things that we do not miss about that time period in America. She elaborates on several points that we do specifically miss about the 1950s, such as the nuclear focus of family life and the profound wage increases. Coontz talks about how in the 1950s, employers and the government did a lot to help families prosper, including offering housing and employment assistance, as well as offering the GI Bill to armed services veterans who wanted to go back to school. She concludes her essay by talking about the break in family structure, the end of the
booming economic prosperity and the downturn in the economy that occurred in the 1970s. These were, she states, the real reasons behind the end of the 1950s family experiment.
Coontz uses outside evidence to support her claim that Americans are nostalgic toward the family and economic life of the 1950s era. She cites a Knight-Ridder news agency poll conducted in 1996 and states that...
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