“We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since the worlds been turning. We didn’t start the fire, no we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.” This is the chorus to Billy Joel’s 1989 number one single We Didn’t Start the Fire. The “fire” of this generation (the baby boomer generation) began when President Harry S. Truman dropped the nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 ending World War II. The 1950’s were a time of change. In fact, the decade was the beginning of the United States as we know it today. By the end of World War II in 1945, the United States was the world’s first superpower and the economy was booming, consumerism was going through the roof and the middle class was ever-expanding. Many people look at the fifties and see just that, while many others look at the decade and see a period of alienation, isolation, conformity and containment.
Personally I believe that the fifties were a mix of all of these things… If the United States during the fifties didn’t have the alienation and conformity then it would have never had the booming economy or the consumerism and materialism. During the fifties we saw the rise of the modern American corporation and everyone and their brother was working for them, everyone had the same blue-collar jobs, which is why everyone was able to have their house in the suburbs with their two cars, white picket fences and 2.3 children.
During the fifties, a sense of uniformity was obvious in American society. Conformity was extremely common, as young and old people alike tended to follow social norms, rather than be individuals. Through the war traditional gender rolls were reversed, while men were off at war the women had to take over, but in the post war era the traditional rules were reaffirmed, the men were the breadwinners and the women were in their proper place, at home raising their children.
During World War II over thirteen million Americans were sent over to Europe and the Pacific. Throughout...