The Booms Of The 1950s

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Samantha Meyer
Professor Mettler
History 146
24 April 2013
The “Booms” of the 1950s

After the war during the 1950s many aspects of life started to “boom”. The booming economy, booming suburban life, and the “baby boom” all occurred. After World War II ended, people had positive attitudes about life and wanted to have many children and create the perfect family. People believed their lives would now be prosperous and filled with happiness. Unemployment was low and the middle-class had money to spend. In the beginning of the 1950s everything seemed to be booming but with the need of a purpose people struggled to be pleased with the lives they were living. Women left work and went back to being housewives, rarely leaving the home. In the book, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, by Sloan Wilson the story demonstrates an average family not satisfied by their well-off lives and constantly trying to conform to the next best thing since the economy was booming and technology was increasing.

The Rath family consists of Tom, Betsy, and their three children. They live in a suburban town in Connecticut in an average, small house in the 1950s. They are constantly discontent and struggling with the pressures of conformity in the 50s. As soon as World War II ended, suburban life increased. Many soldiers returning from the war were given loans to buy their first home in the suburbs because it was more affordable then living in an apartment in the city. The war was over, life was happier, and people were employed. As their next step, people were looking to start a family. Since so many families were increasing, this resulted in the “baby boom”. The story starts with describing the house the family lives in and everything they hate about it. “The hot-water faucet in the bathroom dripped. Almost all the furniture needed to be refinished, reupholstered, or cleaned. And besides that, the house was too small, ugly, and almost precisely like the houses on all sides of it” (Wilson 5). Tom and Betsy are rather discontent with their home and their dream is to move into a bigger and nicer house. They both struggle to be happy in their hectic, fast-paced lives. Tom and Betsy are so focused on improving and conforming their lives that they often forget to realize how lucky they are. At one point Betsy says to her husband, “Your job is plenty good enough. We’ve got three nice kids, and lots of people would be glad to have a house like this. We shouldn’t be so discontented all the time” (Wilson 5). Tom starts off in the story with a low paying salary job, yet it is still a mediocre job. After the war, unemployment was low and the economy was booming.

Many people were moving to the suburbs, starting families, and in need of employment, therefore the economy kept improving. Tom was informed about a job opening that would pay a lot more than he was already receiving. Tom decided it would be best to pursue an interview for the job even if it wasn’t in a field he was most interested in. Betsy says to Tom, “I’ve never thought of you as a public-relation man, would you like it?” Tom responds, “I’d like the money.” She then responds, “It would be wonderful to get out of this house” (Wilson 9). They believed a better job with more money meant a happier life and a nicer house. He went to the interviews and tried his best to get the job. Since money is always on Tom’s mind, before his interview he thought to himself, “When you come right down to it, a man with three children has no damn right to say that money doesn’t matter” (Wilson 10). Tom ended up getting the job with the purpose of bettering himself and his family’s life with the result of more money.

Betsy is a perfect example of a 1950s supportive housewife. After the war, women were urged to leave the work force and be a full time stay at home mother. Women were expected to bear and rear children. Betsy rarely leaves the home, looks after the children, and cleans the house. In the story, she...
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