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Tension In The Twenties Essay, Research Paper

All major societies throughout our world’s history have experienced periods of major change. Tension inevitably arises as a result of the new environments in which the people live. Our country is no exception, especially through the era known as the Roaring Twenties. Just being another decade on the timeline was not good enough for the 1920s. When its brief turn came, it had to be the biggest, the loudest, and the brightest. A calamity gave it birth, and a calamity ended it. As a result of World War I, major economic, social, and political alterations were born; yet more importantly, the tension that arouse due to these results would change America forever.

One of the most important factors that led to the Roaring Twenties was the fact that America had just been subjected to a grueling war. During the war, much melancholy and anguish was built up by both the soldiers in Europe, and their families back home. With all this misery being built up, an explosion of patriotism and the need to let loose, relax and have as much fun as possible erupted.

During the time period, many aspects of American culture were changing, which in turn helped to mount the increasing tension. As a result of the industrialization and mass-production techniques, the lifestyles of many citizens changed. More and more people left their rural dwellings for an increased chance of happiness in the big cities that were arising everywhere. This new rapid lifestyle began to deteriorate many traditional values that the more old-fashioned populace held valuable.

More and more impressive inventions that made incredible impacts on the society also occurred during this time. The automobile gave teens greater freedom and enabled them to be without the constant supervision of their parents. The radio gave America a common ground, thereby allowing everyone from every class to enjoy the same entertainment or information. Many of the new creations had become so common, that it became rare not to have them. This idea is expressed in Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, in which he writes, “These standard advertised wares –toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot-water heaters—were his symbols and proofs of excellence…”

[DOC A]. It is shown here that people also became ranked on not only how much money they had, but their attitude towards these advancements.

Tension between the old and new not only occurred on an economic level, but as well as a religious level. As people began to turn more and more towards science to answer their questions, unbelievable amounts of strain arouse. One of these great conflicts was the Scopes Monkey Trial, also known as The World’s Most Famous Trial. There were basically two conflicts present within this trial: that of the fundamentalists and the Darwinists, and that between the accepted beliefs of the time, and the new ones that challenged them. The standard belief was to accept what society and the Bible dictated. The difference in mentalities between the prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan and the defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, is seen when Bryan states that he himself “believe[s] everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there,” and that “some of the Bible is given illustratively” [DOC C].

Another important source of tension came in the Negro community. This is seen in Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” where he writes of the “revolt against weariness in a white world” [DOC E]. He stresses the tension that is building up between the new artists and those who stay with the old values.

In contrast to the Negro movement was the Ku Klux Klan, who were the perfect example of those who did not want to accept the new ways of life. In Hiram Wesley Evans’ “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism,” this idea is expressed clearly when he states that the Klan “demand[s], and expect[s] to win, a return of power into the hands of the everyday, not highly cultured, not overly intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and not de-Americanized, average citizen of the old stock”[DOC D]. The KKK would have done anything to go back to the old times of oppressed minorities. They look out for themselves, who they describe as being “unspoiled.”

Probably one of the biggest shifts in the value system came from the dominance of the new, looser morals that resulted in fewer marriages, and more frequent divorces. Up until the 1920s, the rate of marriages was increasing much more so than that of divorces. However, during the period, these statistics reversed themselves. Much more divorces and decreased marriages reflected how people began to do what they sought after, as opposed to relying on society [DOC H].

The tension that occurred during the 1920s reshaped American lives. It allowed people to relieve themselves of their tensions, and developed an independent pride that the people could carry with them. Many conflicts occurred, but without them, America would not be as great as it is today.


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