The Roaring Twenties
Americans, in the years following the end of World War I found themselves in an era, where the people simply wished to detach themselves from the troubles of Europeans and the rest of the world. During the years of the Twenties, the economy was prosperous, there was widespread social reform, new aspects of culture were established, and people found better ways to improve their lifestyle and enjoy life.
The 1920's exemplified the changing attitudes of American's toward foreign relations, society, and leisure activities. Following the end of World War I, many Americans demanded that the United States stay out of European affairs in the future. The United States Senate even refused to accept the Treaty of Versailles which officially ended World War I and provided for the establishment of the League of Nations. The Senate chose to refuse the Treaty in the fear that it could result in the involvement of the United States in future European wars. Americans simply did not wish to deal with, nor tolerate the problems of Europe and abroad.
There were many problems running rampant throughout the country following the conclusion of the war. One of the greatest problems which arose was the Red Scare which was seen as an international communist conspiracy that was blamed for various protest movements and union activities in 1919 and 1920. The Red Scare was touched off by a national distrust of foreigners. Many Americas also kept a close eye on the increasing activities of the Klu Klux Klan who were terrorizing foreigners, blacks, Jews and Roman Catholics.
Once Americans put the war behind them, they were able to forget the problems of European affairs, and focus on the country, their town, and themselves. Americans found themselves in a period of reform, both socially and culturally. Many feared that morality had crumbled completely. Before World War I, women wore their hair long, had ankle length dresses, and long cotton stockings. In the twenties, they wore short, tight dresses, and rolled their silk stockings down to their knees. They wore flashy lipstick and other cosmetics. Eventually, women were even granted the right to vote with the passing of the 19th Amendment. It was up to this time period that women were not seen as an important aspect in American society. As if rebelling from the previous position of practically non-existence, women changed their clothing, their fashion, and even cut their hair shorter into bobs which were very similar to the style of men. The similarities were no mere coincidence, but an attempt of the women in American society pushing towards equality. Once the women had the right to vote with the passing of the 19th Amendment, they did not just sit back. The women of the 1920's strived for a position of equality for both men and women in society.
Literature, art, and music also reflected the nations changing values. There were many famous authors, playwrights, musicians and artists which left their mark during the Twenties. Sinclair Lewis authored Main Street (1920), a book which attacked what he considered the dull lives and narrow minded attitudes of people in a small town. Another great author of the time was F. Scott Fitzgerald whose works included The Beautiful and Damned, and Tales of the Jazz Age. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, exemplified the American Dream. The story shows the often misconception of the American Dream being a life of prosperity, parties, happiness, and utopian places. The book uncovers the characters' pursuit of this dream only to discover the American Dream as the American Tragedy. Many Americans who immigrated to the United States in the 20's were believing the same misconception, only to later find the hidden truth that the American Dream was not all what it was cracked up to be.
One of the greatest American authors to emerge from the Twenties was Ernest Hemingway. Some of Hemingway's most noted works in the Twenties included Across the River and into the Trees, and In Our Time. Many of Hemingway's finest works presented the attitudes and experiences of the era's so called "last generation."
Americans had a hunger for news in the Twenties. Every day they would flock to the newsstand for the latest information. They would find the information they needed from various newspapers and periodicals. From the New York Times they got top-notch foreign correspondence. In the New York World they could read Franklin P. Adams, Heywood Broun and other outstandingly witty columnists. In the Twenties the expose of evil-doing in high places became the mark of a good newspaper: The St. Louis Post- Dispatch forced an allegedly corrupt federal judge to resign; the Indianapolis Times exposed Indiana's Ku Klux Klan leader as a murderer.