Writing Seminar: Postwar America
Struggle Against Conformity
Post World War II was a time of establishing a sense of comfort and normality again for the people living in the United States. It was during the postwar era that we truly begin to see the development of this idea of “living the American Dream”. We see how government, media and others, such as realtors for instance, work together as one to sell this idea of what the perception of the “American Dream” should be. In the novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates one can see just how much the perception of the typical American family plays a part in the lives of all the characters that live in a suburban environment. Throughout the novel we witness how both Frank Wheeler and Helen Givings struggle internally to deal with the emotional toll suburban life has on them. However, can we truly say that Frank or Helen has conformed to suburban society and/or to the conventional idea of “the American Dream”? One cannot assume such information without having first analyzed the novel and looking, in depth, into each of these characters. The more time one spends living in a conformed society the more he/she is influenced to conform as well. One begins to lose all sense of individuality, and while many give in to this conformity others try to fight it and prove that they can prevail.
Frank struggles to be satisfied and tries to restrain himself from being sucked into this conventional reality that everyone seems to live and seems to want to have. It helps for him to rage about this conventional lifestyle mainly to convince himself that he and his wife April are true individuals. In his dialogue with April he asserts:
This whole country’s rotten with sentimentality…Anyway whatever it’s the result of, it’s what’s killing the United States…This steady, insisting vulgarizing of every idea and every emotion into some kind of pre-digested intellectual baby food;...