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The 1950s were right at the end of the great depression which was only prevented because of the World War that this nation was pulled into. Therefore many individuals found it difficult to live in that hard time period. Just as the United States citizens began to return to normal from this chaos, they soon found that another problem was awaiting them just around the bend. Because of these looming problems that troubled Americans the 1950s became a very hard time indeed.
The problems that loomed over head were the witch hunt or commie hunt involved with McCarthyism and an extremely conformist attitude made it difficult to live an easy life no matter who that person was and what that persons job was in the 1950s. The two most notable plays of this era were The Crucible and A Raisin in the Sun written by Arthur Miller and Lorraine Hansberry, who were both affected by the tragedies of the 50s. These two plays were social commentaries based on Miller and Hansberrys experiences in the time period which were mostly caused by greed, human desire for acceptance, and fear and hysteria.
Corruption and greed of political figures such as senator Joseph R. McCarthy were a reason for the problems of the 1950s. McCarthy was a Wisconsin politician who had achieved his status in the U.S. government by smear campaigns and underhanded tricks. This was a loose cannon of a man who would not be in order with the rest of the Senate and got in the way with a lot of useless jargon.
The only thing he could do to save his job was to announce that he found Communists in the American government, which terrified the nation. With this terror McCarthy road his way back into fame and luxury. The play The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller who was accused to be a believer in Communism, he therefore wrote a satire about the fifties. The witch hunt of 1692 in this particular play was an allegory for the Communist hunt or later dubbed McCarthyism. The reason he used the witch hunts as an allegory was because people were cried out as Communists just like they were called out as witches in 1962. In this play the girls started chanting names that they knew the adults wanted to hear. I saw Sarah Good with the devil…(Miller, 48). The reason is because McCarthy really had no substantial evidence to go on and had a different amount of names in each of his speeches. If anyone in the play comes close to McCarthys evils it would have to be Thomas Putnam because he killed innocent gain for his own gain. McCarthy condemned innocents for a gain of power, Putnam condemned innocent people for land which in those times meant power. A perfect example of this would be This man is killing his neighbors for their land!(Miller, 96). This personifies Putnam as McCarthy in a purely metaphorical context, which is done very subtly by Miller. Raisin in the sun by Lorraine Hansberry showed greed and corruption in a very subtle way. It is indirect compared to the Crucible because it is shown rather then told. This means that it was shown through the actions of society, by treating blacks so horribly.
Another cause of horrifying events of the 1950s was the desire human for acceptance or nonisolationism, not being alone or shunned. Naturally all people, no matter who they are, want to be accepted by society. However, in Raisin in the sun, some characters present this non-caring antisocial attitude about being accepted. For example, Beneatha, states that she hates it when black people fit into the mold set by the white people. It means someone who is willing to give up his own culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant, and in this case oppressive culture. (Hansberry, 81). This shows how the blacks felt about being dominated in a society where they were supposed to be equal. This was Hansberrys way of taking a shot at the government and saying that we (as a people) should not be treated like dirt. At this point she is stating that the blacks are being isolated from a part of society because of the skin and unless they conform to society they will be ignored. Beneathas character has a strong will and definitely lets her feelings about conformist blacks known. As to the Crucible the isolation is show through the actions of what the towns people due to the accused and later on to Abigail Williams the accuser. One of the main reasons Abigail leaves town is because after a while the townspeople become afraid of her and paranoid creating a sort of force field around her. A force field meaning that no one will get a certain distance to her because they are afraid of the repercussions. But I have only lewd looks from the boys.(Miller, 149). This is Miller showing that after all Abi thinks she has accomplished she has not become anything more then a whore. The boys do not look at her with with respect but with prowess and nothing more. At this point Abigail realizes that she has to do a lot more to end her isolation and to win over John Proctor.
The third factor leading up to the events of the 50s was the spread of mass hysteria and panic in the U.S.. The best example out of the two plays had to be The Crucible because it show the Red Scare of the 1950s. Once again returning to the atrocities of McCarthyism which spread fear and panic of a modern day witch hunt throughout the country. This fear caused the American people to doubt their own government because of the amazingly unsubstantial allegations made by Senator Joseph McCarthy. The people of America were lead just like sheep into believing that random people were communists in disguise. We cannot blink it more. There is a prodigious fear of the court in this country-(Miller, 98). This shows Hales realization to the illogical approach to the accused, and slowly he realized that any one at any time could fall victim to these lies, just like anyone could be convicted of Communism. However Danforth, representing the American people, believe that only the guilty would be found guilty and that there was no flaw in these accusations or sentences. Raisin in the sun had a different aspect of fear in America which scared the African-Americans in our country. An example of this would be Linder when he states It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly of wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.(Hansberry, 118). This showed the fear of a different race or racism in a sort. This was a fear of prejudice and bias opinion based on no reason or logic. The feeling was that if these blacks moved into a white neighborhood they would bring the neighborhood down like the black family moving in. Unfortunately this idea was shared by many people in this time period and not much could really be done about it.
The 1950s were a difficult time to live in because of the mass hysteria and panic of the world around the people of the U.S.. With all the things that they worry about they literally did. The causes for this terrible decade was the greed and corruption, humans want to end isolationism, and mass hysteria and panic.
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