It was the best of times and the worst of times (Dickens 1). The movie Its a Wonderful Life was released and six million Jewish people were murdered. White Christmas was a popular song and the black lists appeared. Gas rationing became necessary and soldiers were slaughtered in Guadacanal. Casablanca was idolized and Hiroshima was destroyed by a nuclear bomb.
The nineteen forties has been given the dreary title of The War Decade. However, the United States managed to emerge from World War two as the strongest nation and prosperity reigned supreme after the war. In World War two people were desperate for release from the harsh realities of the war and they endured hard times with the art, music, and literature flourishing at the time. American culture was greatly affected by the war.
It changed the way people thought and acted in their daily lives. The nineteen forties was one of the most important decades in history.The forties began the longest period of economic growth in United States (Uschan 111).
War production pulled America out of the great depression. Factories were making supplies for the war at an all time high and the unemployment rate was at an all time low (The Authors of Time Life Books 69). Women began to take jobs in industry while men were fighting. The war created a huge retribution of wealth that fueled economic growth in the middle class (Uschan 110). Millions of housewives worked to help keep the economy running during the forties.
Between 1940 and 1944, the number of employed women rose from 12 million to 18.2 million (The Authors of Time Life Books 64). The war created a demand for workers in industry and women took these jobs. Gender roles were forever altered by womens appearance in the workforce (The Authors of Time Life Books 69).Americans made severe cutbacks in spending money and buying luxuries in the forties due to World War two (Gross 87). Despite this, America emerged from the war as the strongest nation economically. Art, music, and literature flourished during the nineteen-forties.
The Holocaust had a major impact on art in America during the forties. Adolph Hitler eliminated artists whose ideals didnt agree with his own causing many to flee to the United States (Hill 56). The United States became the center of the western art world (56). For the first time in history American artists gained international recognition (58). Music was also very popular during the forties. Big bands dominated popular music until 1945 when the GIs came home and focused on marriage, raising families, and buying homes and did not have extra money to spend on entertainment (59). Singers that had been with the big bands started going out on their own.
Stars like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby made several solo records (60). Musicals such as “Oklahoma” were very successful on the Broadway stage and in the movies (60). Be-bop (or hot jazz) also emerged as a new popular genre of music in the 1940s (59). Literature became more widespread in the forties due to the introduction of the inexpensive paperback (58).
The horrors of the war and prejudices began to come forth in literature after the war. Non fiction writing was popular, giving first hand accounts of the war and opinions on the holocaust. Art, music, and literature were extremely important during the forties because all three forms of expression expressed opinions of the war and commentary on the America of the time.American culture changed drastically during the nineteen forties as the war and technology brought new ideals and possibilities. The war had a huge impact on American culture for most of the forties. The largest change in culture spouted from the fact that America was no longer in a depression after the war. Many soldiers returned from the war and wanted to start familys creating the baby boom and a whole new economic future for America (The Editors of Time Life Books 120).
By the nineteen forties technology also had become an intrical part of America culture. Women were aided by new technologies around the house like the frozen dinner and Tupperware that helped save time (124). This new time and the taste of independence they had received from working during the war helped create a radical feminist movement (124). Entertainment became even more popular as technology became increasingly modern. Movies were popular, and by 1947 commercial television was available to the public (128). Teenagers also became a recognized force during the forties (Devarney 41).
With men off to war teenage boys and girls found employment readily available. They had money to spend because of these jobs and advertisement began to be aimed at teens (42). With fathers away and mothers at work, another new phenomenon arose: the juvenile delinquent (44). The forties was decade defined by World War II.
America was forever changed by this war. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. More than 16 million American men and women served in the military while millions of housewives worked to help keep the economy running (Editors of Time Life Books 60).
The U.S. emerged from the war as the world’s most powerful nation.
Americans, after surviving years of depression and war, eagerly started families. A surge in the 1946 birthrate began the postwar baby boom (120). Although there were rumors, it was only after the war ended that Americans learned the extent of the Holocaust. Realization of the power of prejudice helped lead to civil rights reforms over the next three decades. America has been forever changed by the advancement that were made during this decade.
Bibliography:Works CitedJohn, Devaney.America Goes to War.Walker Publishing Complany. New York. 199641-44Dickens, Charles.The Tale of Two Citites.
Mass Market Paperback, New York. 1997. 1The Editors of Time Life Books.The Patriotic Tide 1940-1950. Joseph J.
Ward, Toronto. 199160-69, 120-128 Ernie, Gross.The America Year: A Chronology of United States History. Charles Scribners Sons, New York.
1999. 87Hill, Walter.Remembering the FortiesProliff Publishing, New York. 1996. 56-60Uschan, Peter.
American Culture. Franklin Watts, New York. 1996. 110-111