Kozol and the American Dream

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A picture is worth a thousand words. This adage refers to the ability to convey a complex idea with just one photograph. Wendy Kozol, on the other hand, used several pictures to better explain her ideas in The Kind of People Who Make Good Americans. The author’s claim that the magazine, Life, helped to construct an imagined community of a middle-class at a time of economic turmoil, political friction and social change following World War II was further enhanced by the use of the visual portrayals from the magazine.

Family portraits are often used to show a happy moment in a families life. Kozol uses family portraits shown in Life to show the “typical” family. Usually a man in a suit is standing near his wife and children as they occupy a suburban home. Life’s depiction of the family reinforced the class, racial and gender differences that had overwhelming consequences for the magazines representation of the nation. “The American and His Economy” reinforces the use of “his” to show the male dominance in society and the wife’s duty to care for the children as she kneels below her husband to be near them. Kozol also mentions the migration that was occurring during the time. People of color were migrating to urban slums as seven million white Americans moved into the suburbs. Life chose to photograph the families in the suburbs, which caused a problem in the depiction that the nation was only built of such families, but after some time finally chose to show the families in the urban areas and how they lived to change the “nation” the magazine created.

Nationalism shapes social identities. Kozol identifies with another author as she claims that she does not believe nationalism is real because it creates an imagined community where, in reality people do not meet all the members of said community, but does believe the power of the word “nationalism” lies in the appeal to human needs for order, identity, and immortality. She also points out that the idea of...
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