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Imagine walking down the street one day, only to be smiled at and happily greeted by each and every person you encountered. Life in the 1930s was just like this. Towns were small and everyone knew one another. Now imagine walking down a crowded, traffic-filled street, only to be pushed aside, ignored, or ridiculed. Life in the 1980s, and today, is like this. Towering skyscrapers and large houses cover the land and no one seems to have a care in the world for another person. In Fannie Flagg's novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the drastic change of the lifestyles and attitudes of people between the 1930s and 1980s is clearly portrayed.
Racism was an attitude that strongly affected the lives of people during the 1930s. Although slavery had been abolished over fifty years before, groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, still existed, which led people to believe African Americans were a bad race of people. African Americans were looked down upon by anyone with a light skin color, including lighter-skinned African Americans, themselves. Clarissa, Jasper's peaches-and-cream colored daughter, was so lightly colored, she was able to ride in the main white elevator, while she was downtown. Her parents would be quite angry if they were to find out "although she was encouraged to mingle only with the lighter-skinned people, passing for a white was an unpardonable sin" (296). Clarissa's parents didn't want her to pass herself off as a white person, because she shouldn't hide the fact that she's black, while at the same time, they didn't want her seen around darker-skinned African Americans, because it was believed that the darker the skin color, the worse the person was. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr., for example, was one of the strong leaders to change the racism that existed for so many years. By the 1980s, people of all skin colors were much more accepted. Interracial dating and marriages began to grow, there were no rules about where an African American could sit, walk, or eat, and the racism which had existed in the 1930s was nearly gone. The attitude of racism, which had affected the lives of so many in the 1930s no longer affects people quite so harshly today.
Another bad attitude people had in the 1930s was towards homosexuality. The thought of a man having relations with another man, or a woman having relations with another woman, never even came to mind then.
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It's interesting to examine the differences that exist between a mere fifty years. The attitudes and lifestyles of people changed so drastically between the 1930s and 1980s. Racism came and went, homosexuality grew to be more and more accepted by society, and the once gracious behavior people showed toward others is long gone. Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe clearly showed how the positives and negatives of the past could so strongly impact the future through the attitudes and lifestyles of people.
Flagg, Fannie. Fried Green Tomatoes.