America in the 1950's Essay Example



The realities of life are not always apparent at face value. After WWII, the United States became the ideal place to live with the birth of the middle class. Due to the vast prosperity, middle-class individuals were able to move to suburban areas. The suburbs became the new standard of living that everyone wanted to be apart of. The media, in particular, focused on the ideal American lifestyle, failing to mention the underlying issues in society. The United States was encountering issues surrounding the Cold War while experiencing great prosperity throughout the nation during the 1950s. Although the 1950s was conveyed as a time of great prosperity, it was filled with hardships and unfortunate events. Specifically, segregation, the realistic family dynamic, and the poverty outside the suburbs shaped the nation through the 1950s.  

First, the rise of segregation shaped the nation through the 1950s. The great prosperity experienced in the 1950s may have applied to the white Americans, but not to the black Americans. In fact, the treatment of black Americans only got worse after the 1950s. According to Document 3, white and black Americans were separate in public transportation but deemed as equal. Individuals during the 1950s believed in the idea of separate but equal which is demonstrated through these rules. People thought that separating individuals based on race was acceptable because of the idea of remaining equal. These ideas shaped the nation and have remained present decades later. In fact, in society, it was clear that black Americans were not seen as equals through schools, such as Little Rock Central High School. According to Document 4, “Teams of students appeared to be assigned specific kinds of torture. One team concentrated on slamming us into lockers, while another group must have been told to practice insidious harassment inside the classrooms” (Beals). Within schools, upon integration, black individuals were severely discriminated against. White teenagers treated the finite number of black Americans within the high school as inferior. Again, black American discrimination shaped society during the 1950s. These children feared for their lives each day when they went to school because of these standards that the nation held during this time. Although this integration may have been viewed by the public as progress, the reality was young children were now further belittled and discriminated against. 

Next, the realistic family dynamic shaped the nation through the 1950s. The ideal family of the 1950s involved a working father, a housewife, and perfect children. However, behind the scenes, things were different. According to Document 7, women all lived the same lives, not distinct from each other, and were expected to believe it was paradise. Although women spent ample time with their families, a woman’s life was not as perfect as it was portrayed. The media portrayed women as proper and put people under the impression that all women wanted was to be housewives. However, women thrived throughout WWII when they were able to work. To summarize, women were not as excited by their positions in the family as they may have seemed. Furthermore, the children also deviated from the expectations through in several ways. According to Document 12, “We just had to see who had the fastest car. It was totally for bragging purposes even if only for a day. I’m glad our parents didn’t know how rough we were on the family cars, or if they did, I’m glad they didn’t say too much about it” (Lancaster). Families during the 1950s were seen as united, but this was not the case. In fact, children were actually rebellious during these times, doing dangerous things such as racing cars. These behaviors reflect the true reality of families during this time. Instead of doing everything together and acting innocent, teens would often do dangerous things secretly.  

Lastly, the poverty outside the suburbs shaped the nation through the 1950s. While the great increase in the middle-class population brought many individuals to the suburbs, vast poverty still remained. According to Document 8, “We ignore it because we share with all societies at all times the capacity for not seeing what we do not wish to see” (Galbraith). The United States chose to focus on the positives at times when the negatives were extremely important. Poverty was swept under the rug by individuals who were not dealing with it. The 1950s was remembered as a time of prosperity, rather than a time of great poverty outside of the suburbs. Next, America felt divided during this time. According to Document 9, the impoverished went unnoticed over time as the new standard of living was praised. In the media and to common knowledge during the 1950s, America was seen as extremely prosperous and desirable to live in. While this is true, there was also immense poverty that went unnoticed. These individuals struggling through their lives were seen as inconvenient and unnecessary due to the other part of society that was thriving. 

The hardships and unfortunate events that took place during the 1950s included segregation, the reality of the family dynamic, and the poverty outside of the suburbs which shaped the nation. When societal changes took place, stereotypes of the ideal life were established. However, these stereotypes proved incorrect due to all of the hardships faced throughout the 1950s. Even when something seems perfect, there are always hidden realities that are eventually revealed.