To what extent was there a moral crisis in America in the 1920’s. During the 1920’s, there most certainly was moral revolutions in America and traditional values were most certainly being challenged by the newer generation. Of course, for example, with the introduction of Hollywood, reforming attitudes that were towards and adopted to women and the economic boom of the 1920’s this was most certainly going to have an effect of the general American public’s moral values.
Whilst these changing attitudes may be perceived by traditionalists to be shaping a moral crisis at the time, this essay looks to explore on whether or not there was actually a moral crisis in America in the 1920’s or whether the USA marked society in moral change rather than in entering into a moral crisis, which is defined as a crisis in which you are torn between what you know to be the wrong thing and the right thing, which it is often criticised of by the older generations at the time.
The first issue in America which arguably sparked off a moral crisis in America was prohibition as this had illegalised alcohol in the United States and due to the nature of the market which the government was illegalising which had such a high demand for consumers, it meant that consumers were torn between obeying the law and their increasing desires for alcohol. In fact, prohibition had made people drink more alcohol by buying it illegally where it was available in the black market.
The prohibition act had, therefore, really challenged American moral values as arguably most consumers in the US drank alcohol as part of normality in their daily lives and so by the government illegalising it, it had only meant that consumers had to fulfil their habits by other means. However, although most Americans were forced to resort to other measures in terms of fulfilling their alcoholic desires, this was not a moral crisis but rather it challenged their moral values whilst the introduction of organised crime as a result of prohibition is what arguably led America into a moral crisis.
This is because prohibition acted as a major catalyst of organised crime as it had meant that individuals such as Alcapone were arguably encouraged to start selling alcohol to the American public as they were not being sold openly in the American market. This obviously marked a moral crisis in terms of the American economy as it meant that Alcohol was illegally having to be imported into the US without any taxes being paid to the government to fulfil the demands of consumers which is why Al Capone said he was not a riminal but “supplying a public demand” and that “he was a businessmen. ” However, Al Capone’s desires to have a monopoly over the illegal American alcohol market led to an increasing moral crisis in America as Capone had stated to kill his competition such as with the killing of Dion O’Bannon in 1926. This had led to gang warfare or gangsterism in America and therefore a corrupt society in moral crisis in this respect.
So, the effects of the introduction of the prohibition act such as gang warfare and, consumers who were in many cases very respectable, being left torn on their morals to resort to buying alcohol from illegal sources such as Alcapone available in the black market is what caused a moral crisis. And so in this respect, it is definitely arguable that it wasn’t just a small part of society that was in moral crisis such as Alcapone and gang warfare’s that came about as a result of prohibition but that the majority of American society must have been part of Alcapone and other dealers illegal activity as they were buying his imported goods.
The fact that Alcapone had generated revenue which approximated to $60,000,000 is evidence that the whole of American society was part of his illegal activity and thus indicating a moral crisis by going against the law rather than a small segment of it. However, as the prohibition act had eventually failed, there is no certainty to say that consumers who were buying alcohol illegally was an indication of America in a moral crisis in the 1920’s.
After all, consumers were simply carrying on to fulfil what they previously were allowed to do illegally and as the act eventually failed, the act can be seen as more of a battle between society and the government whereby society was demonstrating to the government that they just couldn’t prevent alcohol consumption in the USA even if they did illegalise it. Many historians agree that the role of Hollywood in the 1920’s played a major part in changing moral values in the USA, particularly as it had become a major mass entertainment industry.
The cinema was perceived as a sense of immorality and quite rightfully it was in advertising gambling and alcohol which were all the things which the government was hoping American society would not be part of, in its attempts through the Hayes code to try and boost efficiency levels amongst the workers by keeping them more active and away from what the traditionalists felt was the devilish attributes which many Americans were moving towards such as gambling and excessive alcohol drinking. How the characters in
Hollywood reacted is arguably what sparked off the 1920’s to be an era of liberation rather than a moral crisis as it was these values which many Americans adopted into their daily lives, arguably as part of liberation in the right direction. Dorothy Parker is one of the women who was brave enough to be a role model to other women and encourage them to escape from their current suppressions at home in her attempts to reform American society by making it more liberal rather than arguably remaining in a moral crisis where women were being devalued for what their true capabilities are if they were given the option to express themselves.
In fact, the liberating behaviour of the young women in the 1920’s is what enabled more equality to form between the sexes. For example, more women were given higher paid jobs and although they did not earn as much as men during this time, the equality gap had significantly decreased. This is a significant indication that the roaring twenties was quite the contrary to being in moral decline as it had arguably increased the mutual understanding and values for women who, were previously valued to be housewives maintaining the household, to later on play an equal part in the economic world.
In fact, the 1920’s had abolished the previous superiority that men used to think they had over women whilst it allowed women on the whole to have confidence in themselves and the freedom to not be dictated by their fathers or husbands. These traditional values marked history during the 1920’s and changed the perception of women in America who had liberated to fashionable hairstyles and the enjoyment with attending clubs such as the Cotton Clubs at night time.
The roaring 20’s freed women, therefore, from their previous values and dictatorship of the male species which arguably had brought America out of a moral crisis where women were free from their previous suppression and devaluation. In conclusion, overall, there probably wasn’t a moral crisis in the U. S. but rather change and reformation in the way that society operates away from a traditionalist outlook to society to progressives.
The 1920’s in America was arguably a time of exaggeration on behalf of the fundamentalists and marked the difference in generational thinking between the old and the young. The economic boom in that came with the increasingly growing country during this time was what forcibly changed the role of women as they were used in advertisements to promote products to consumers such as cigarettes being renowned as ‘ torches of freedom’ to the women. More importantly, from a rogressives prospective, the changing values of the role of women was actually bringing society out of a moral crisis where women were generally perceived to not have any input in the economic World purely on the basis of their gender. Whilst the 1920’s marked the changing attitudes of society towards women, sex and drinking. The main aspect of society which is, perhaps, evidential of America entering into a moral crisis was the amount of gang warfare that came about due to the amount of immigration into America and the effects of the prohibition act.
The amount of racial tension in America in the 1920s which was marked in the Sacco and Vanzetti case is, therefore, one of the key components of the 1920’s which points to America stepping into a racial crisis and therefore a moral crisis, but apart from this on the whole America can be seen to be reforming and passing through a cycle of reformation rather than what it is perceived to be of the older generations of ignorance and that the older generations and fundamentalists were left behind in their ignorance to accept change.