Fifties Essay

This essay has a total of 1028 words and 5 pages.


The 1950s are characterized as a decade marked by the Cold War and social conformity. It
is hard to generalize the lives of millions of Americans, but the values of Americans in
the fifties were shaped by two major events: the Great Depression and World War II. After
a period of war and poverty conforming to a suburban way of life was a dream come true for

The 1950s almost inevitably invoke an image of the so called "traditional" nuclear family
portrayed in famous TV shows like "Happy Days." In this "golden age" of the family,
happily married men and women lived in suburban homes raising families. Women gleefully
fulfilled their roles as mothers and wives while men contently worked to provide for their
families. Everyone--men, women, and children were healthy and satisfied. The nuclear
family of the 1950s arose due to particular circumstances involving both America’s past
and its future.

The 1950s nuclear family differed from previous conceptions of the family in America. Of
course, circumscribed gender roles were not new; they had always been around and were
particularly reinforced during Victorian times. But the definition of the nuclear family
in the 1950s went beyond the concept of the breadwinner husband and homemaker wife. Men
found in demeaning for their wives to be working. Women who were in the workforce left
because of this concept and fulfill the dreams of motherhood, which required the women’s
full-time attention. For the first time in history, Americans were expected to find all
their satisfaction and pleasure in the home.

Instead of just prosperity, the definition of the American Dream expanded to include the
family; the dream became profoundly domestic. The American Dream previously conjured
notions of economic success. In the fifties, a family was success. Prosperity was still
extremely important, but it had to be expressed through the family and a suburban home.
Families were now expected to be the center of an individual’s world. Both husband and
wife were expected to be much more in tune with each other and their children. The
emphasis on the family as the source of all satisfaction in life made the 1950s nuclear
family a new invention in America’s history.

In the fifties people were aware that the nuclear definition of the family was new. After
the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans were eager to embrace a
new type of family life. During these difficult times, families were forced more than ever
to rely on extended kin. Extended families had always been prevalent in America. These
frugal times understandably led to tension between extended families living together under
the same roof. In Postwar America, therefore, the nuclear family was hailed as modern.
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