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The Impacts of World War II in the 1950s: Analytical Essay

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After the Second World War at 1945, Churchill Stated that “America at this moment, stands at the summit of the world.” The status of America during the 1950s is proof for what Churchill said. America was at his best after WWII, though it caused so many destruction and mass killings, Americans believed that after the war there would be prosperity. And there was; The economic status, the political status, the progress in science and technology, and the population growth due to fertility and immigration. Nevertheless, there was some great conflicts in the society of opposing ideas, such as the emergence of the civil rights movement, censorship in literature and their involvement in the Korean War and last but not the least the Cold War.

What has happened was the postwar booms. Deluding themselves by the durability of peace, Americans were eager to have children. They were somehow correct. The government spent so much on establishing schools, highways, and corporations, invested in military alongside the new technologies of computers, and manufacturing cars, and airplanes, all provided the ground of economic growth, therefore, the rates of unemployment and inflation had decreased. Economically everything was going as planned, the products’ prices were low, the wages were high. People could spend so much money on the diverse products that were available. However, people of America were striving for whatever they had lost or could not have during the World War II. American people avidly were looking forward to the new goods and materials which would show off their wealth, and to make up for what they had lost or never had. After overcoming their goals, the results were different. There were people who were satisfied by what they had. On the other hand, there were people who got stuck in the routine of a “faceless, suit-wearing businessman” who became a societal stereotype of the 1950s. These people suffered from loneliness and purposelessness in their lives as a living dead in a corporate society. Such characters can be found in the work of Vance Packard “The Status Seeker” (1959) and David Riseman “The Lonely Crowd” (1950).

The growth of the population resulted in the great expansion of churches and schools. Church attendance during the 50s increased from almost 50 percent to approximately 70 percent of the nation. The buildings, of course, were mirroring the characteristics of the decade’s religious life. This decade can be named as one of the most religious times for the United States. There are some very religious novels with Christian themes such as “The Robe” (1942) by Liyod Douglas, “The Silver Chalice” (1952) by Thomas Costain, or “The Cardinal” (1950) by Henry Morton Robinson.

Furthermore, the American society was in disagreement of whatever was known as a Taboo. So, many authors gave in to the religious restrictions, and some were compelled to obey this traditional censorship of their books, for the people to embrace and accept them. Some other group of the artists of the 1950s could not submit to these convictions. These artists were not content of what has happened during the first half of the 20th C and didn’t want to surrender to the conservative society of America. Cold War which was also one of the defining elements of the 50s, was another reason of tension and anxiety of people and artists. Accordingly, there were new voices after WWII, Beat Generation or Beat movement were the artists who were against the religious conviction and the censors which were employed on their works of Art. Their fashions and manners were borrowed from jazz musicians. The drug, jazz, sex, and the instructions of Buddhism considered by these artists that would help them to attain the purification and inspiration through the heightened awareness. They would also release their personal feelings in their works. Their vindication was the joylessness and the aimlessness of modern society. Some of the well-known authors of Beat generation are Allen Ginsberg whom his poem “Howl” (1956) is one of the best examples of this movement and Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” (1957) which has influenced artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, etc. Its fame is due to its expression of freedom and the energy for being adventurous.

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In the continuation of living in the postwar world, one of the sequels was the attendance of more teens in schools, and the decrease of working children which surely is a good happening. However, it also caused the depression of them due to the thinking of their individuality, their existence, and their future. One of the masterpieces which exactly is a manifestation of a teen in that decade is “The Catcher in The Rye” (1951) by J. D. Salinger. Alongside the teens, there was the identity crisis after WWII. They would not value the individuality, so it made the majority of people to be very anxious, dubious of the values of American society, and the fear of constantly proving themselves. In order to soothe the people, authors attempted to write motivational novels. For example, Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of the Positive Thinking” (1952) and Fulton J. sheen’s “Life is Worth Living” (1952). Such writers implied the bright future and the ability of people to be in control of their lives in order to achieve whatever they want in their lives.

A great mass of American citizens who were not satisfied with the flow of schools and societal laws were African-Americans or in general black people. They rose to the government and against the inequalities, which begot the emergence of the Civil war. Black Americans spoke of the laws which were not based on justice or equality. Earlier in the 20th C, they had to fight for the abolishment of slavery. While in the mid-20th C, they had to battle for their primary rights. Their main battle was on the segregation in every public place such as buses or schools and racist treatment of whites. In the 1950s, by the emergence of the Civil Right movement, some laws were about to shift in favor of black people of America. Undoubtedly, this movement and the racial discrimination had its own effects on authors of the time, especially the black authors. One of the most important works of this period is “Invisible Man” (1952) by Ralph Ellison. It is narrated by an unnamed man who gets no attention in the society. He demonstrates the conditions of an African-American whom the treatments of society are hostile toward him. There’s also another famous work which helped people to get more familiar with the culture of African people, “Things Fall Apart” (1958) by Chinua Achebe.

The authors of the time were highly influenced by all the economic, political, social, cultural shifts, movements or conflicts. They would mirror all these matters in their works by using “black humor and absurdist fantasy”. Here I’m going to mention some authors of the 1950s and their works that had impacts on the society, people, and influential to the artists of the next generation. “A highly self-conscious fiction emerged in the 50s, laying bare its own literary devices, questioning the nature of representation, and often imitating or parodying earlier fiction rather than social reality. Russian-born Vladimir Nabokov and the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges were strong influences on this new “metafiction.”” Some of Nabokov’s works are “Lolita” (1955), “Pnin” (1957). James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison both were the writers who tried to illustrate the black life’s complications in America. Baldwin’s best novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953) portrays the artist’s adolescent religious experiences in the Harlem world. Ayan Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) criticizes the corruption in the government’s system, it has negative view on government and is a supporter of capitalism. “Fahrenheit 451” (1953) was written by Ray Bradbury which is a famous work even today, is exhibiting a disturbing view of America which books are banned and burned. In a world which due to the censorship of the government, and the ruling of Television-which he believed would make our minds to rot- people don’t have any interest of reading books.

The 1950s just like other decades in America underwent so many predicaments, conflicts, and changes, though some believed that this decade was the inauguration of the developing power in America which was right. In this decade, many events had an impact on the American literature, most importantly on the later works of African-American literature. Most of the great novels, poems, Children’s stories, and plays have been written by authors who were influenced by the circumstances and incidents of that time.

Works Cited:

  1. ‘1950 To 2000 – Books That Shaped America | Exhibitions – Library of Congress’. Loc.Gov, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/books-that-shaped-america/1950-to-2000.html. Accessed 7 Jan 2020
  2. ‘American Literature in The 50S’. Infograph.Venngage.Com, https://infograph.venngage.com/p/99522/american-literature-in-the-50s. Accessed 7 Jan 2020.
  3. ‘American Literature – The Novel and Short Story. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/art/American-literature/The-novel-and-short-story. Accessed 7 Jan 2020.
  4. Beat Movement | History, Characteristics, Writers, & Facts’. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/art/Beat-movement. Accessed 7 Jan 2020.
  5. ‘The 1950S’. HISTORY, 2019, https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/1950s. Accessed 7 Jan 2020.
  6. Moussa, Robin. “1950’s Themes in Literature.” Prezi.Com, 29 Jan. 2013, prezi.com/c5mtlkju3yp-/1950s-themes-in-literature/.
  7. Temple, Emily. “A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1950s.” Literary Hub, 22 Oct. 2018, lithub.com/a-century-of-reading-the-10-books-that-defined-the-1950s/.
  8. Tucker, Carol. “The 1950s – Powerful Years for Religion.” USC News, 16 June 1997, news.usc.edu/25835/The-1950s-Powerful-Years-for-Religion/.

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