Rebellion Essay

This essay has a total of 1747 words and 7 pages.


“Rebellion in the Fifties”

During the Fifties the United States was filled with confidence but at the same time
insecurity. The United States emerged from WWII as a global superpower and a symbol for
freedom. The United States saw its role in world affairs as the protector of free
countries from communism. The fear of communism expansionism during the fifties was a
major issue. Communism represented radical thinking and ideas, a shift away from
conservatism thinking or a shift away from the center, to a shift towards the edge.
During the Fifties the fear of communism spreading in America gave rise to movements such
as McCarthyism and the House on un-American Activities (HUAC). These movements
represented the feelings of Americans towards communism at the time, they represented fear
and the way to contain their fears was to weed out the bad seeds. These movements created
a shift towards the center again, towards conservatism. This trend towards the center or
conservatism can be seen in all aspects of American life. Not only was conservatism
evident in the Fifties, but also rebellion. The push to be conservative and persecute
individualism was an immense undertaking that it created fear and out of that fear came

In any controlled environment, such as the one the United States created for itself during
the Fifties, there is bound to be some kind of tension or rebellion, rebellion against the
pressure of being normal or conservative. There was a great deal of stress being placed
on being “just like everyone else”. The voice of the rebellion was usually the
entertainers, artists, or writers. Many of these people expressed their feelings about
current issues by disguising it in their stories, movies or, paintings. Many of these
people challenged the politics of the mainstream or the center. However there were works
done that supported the shift towards the center and conservatism. Three works that will
be examined are Kurt Vonnegut’s, “Player Piano”, the movie, “Rebel Without a Cause”, and
Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road”.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, “Player Piano”, many similarities can be seen between the
post-war period in the novel and post WWII in America. In post WWII America there was an
extreme shift towards conservatism and an extreme prejudice towards communism. In the
post-war period in the novel there was also an extreme shift towards conservatism, but
instead of an extreme prejudice towards communism there was an extreme prejudice towards
sabotage. Sabotage and communism can be interchangeable because they both mean radical
change or thinking and were ideas or acts that were against conformity and conservatism.
Vonnegut used sabotage in place of communism to better describe the situation in his
novel, but was actually using his novel to describe the current situation in America.
During post WWII, communism was a lurking threat in the world and in America. Many feared
that communism would expand its influences into America. This was the same fear that was
depicted in Vonnegut’s novel, but instead of the fear of communism it was a fear of
sabotage. In the novel Vonnegut used terms such as “anti-sabotage laws” and saboteur. In
America there was McCarthyism, HUAC, Executive order 9835, and communist. The worst thing
anyone could be called during the fifties was a communist, or in Vonnegut’s novel, a
saboteur because it meant that they were a rebel.

Another similarity would be the growing dependence on technology like the atom bomb and
EPICAC. They both represent how we have become dependent on technology to fight our wars
and do our thinking. The development of Levittowns was also described in the novel as
M-17’s and how everyone lived in one. Everyone had the same house, had the same
furniture, and had the same appliances. In essence everyone was the same, they just had
different names. It was these kinds of trends that Vonnegut wrote about to warn the
American population of what was happening around them.

Vonnegut noted these trends in American society in his novel, predicting what could happen
if society continued on this path. America was developing a trend where individuals were
no longer recognized; only the whole mattered. Everyone had to be part of the system, if
you were not part of the system then you were against it. Just even the idea of radical
change would brand you as a “rebel”. Writing this kind of literature during the fifties
criticizing the American government would have branded Vonnegut as a communist or a
“rebel”. This is another similarity that can be pointed out between post WWII America and
“Player Piano”.
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