United States Since 1945
February 3, 2015
In Homeward Bound, Elaine Tyler May portrays the connection between foreign and political policy and the dynamics of American families during the post war and Cold War eras through the idea of containment. She argues that political containment bred domestic containment by tying together the widespread anticommunist views of the years following World War II with the ideal of American suburban domesticity. According to May, "domestic containment" was a side effect of the fears and aspirations that arose after the war had ended - within the home, "potentially dangerous social forces of the new age might be tamed, where they could contribute to the secure and fulfilling life to which postwar women and men aspired." Following World War II, Americans married in greater numbers than generations before and enjoyed more stable and longer lasting marriages. May argues that need to marry and have families was not a passive act, but rather a political statement against issues of the time, mainly the threat of communism. “Marrying young and having lots of babies were ways for Americans to thumb their noses at doomsday predictions”. The effects of the anticommunist movement, along with the rapidly changing role of women and the new definition of marriage bred stress in suburban America. The family would be the stronghold that would defend its members against the concerns of the era. Having a secure home and family was how Americans could maintain their way of life and combat the communistic threat they felt was an imminent danger to their American values.
May begins to explore the origins of “domestic containment” by showcasing the ...
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...ey were fighting the good fight in order to return home to their own domestic and consumerist life through propaganda and the use of pin-ups. Advertisements boasted, “Hollywood girls are all things to servicemen”. Ads like these led men to believe they were fighting for the women back home. The pin-up girl was a symbol of what was waiting at home – a woman that needed to be taken care of and someone he could build a family with.
After the dropping of the atomic bomb and the realization that the threat of retaliation was real, domestic containment became a stronghold over the suburban American household. May argues that, “as the cold war took hold of the nation’s consciousness, domestic containment mushroomed into a full-blown ideology that hovered over the cultural landscape for two decades.” Traditional family values would save Americans from the threats abroad.
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