ENG 112 Critical Response #1 Mimi Jimmy What We Really Miss About the 1950s Stephanie Coontz Stephanie

Coontz (1997) guides and addresses the reader’s questions about her thoughts and usually followed through with the answers. Some of my questions were not fully addressed or I didn’t find a connection relating back to her claim. In the introduction she states, “I don’t think it’s crazy for people to feel nostalgic about the period,” while talking about the family structure in the 1950s (p. 32). If she doesn’t think it is a crazy idea than who are the people who do think it is crazy? She says that most African Americans would not pick the 1950s as the years as a golden age but does not say they think it is a crazy idea. Coontz acknowledges that when the people who do reminisce in the 1950s that when they actually put full thought into it they wouldn’t want to return to the mothers and fathers of that time. Politicians are the ones saying that the modern family structure should reflect the family structure of the 1950s. Coontz does say that they are in kind being hypocritical by not offering the social support families had in the 1950s. What are their thoughts and why do they think that we should all return back to the idealistic image of a home with a white picket fence with children playing outside in the yard with dad at work and mother in the kitchen? Coontz does not bring the audience to an understanding of the reasoning behind the politicians wish for today’s families. Throughout her writing, Coontz reaffirms her claim that the most popular idealistic family was of the 1950s but not realistic. It was a great time to raise children with the father as the breadwinner giving the support to the mother to stay at home with the children. She brings her readers back again and again as if to hammer her idea into the readers and if she says it many times the readers might being to believe. The 1950s

ENG 112 Critical Response #1 Mimi Jimmy families had hope of security and stability and this created the recollection of harmonious families and according to Coontz, “This confidence that almost everyone could look forward to a better future stands in sharp contrast to how most contemporary Americans feel, and it explains why a period which many people were much worse off than today sometimes still looks like a better period for families than our own” (p. 40). It was not the clear roles with set boundaries that the families had but the hope for the future that brought about the nostalgia of the 1950s. Another example of her reaffirmation is when she talks about how the optimism did affect people’s experience and memory of family life which is a comparison to most Americans dreary struggle and outlook on the future today. Although she does explain thoroughly why it is an unrealistic dream, I noticed she makes an unsupported claim of, “We now know that 1950s family culture was not only nontraditional; it was also not idyllic” (p. 44). She thoroughly explains how families had shared experiences of sacrifice from the 1900s up to the 1950s and that the 1950s era had brought hope, confidence and opportunities for advancement for families. She says that the breadwinner-homemaker roles were introduced for the first time in American history in 1920s and reintroduced in the 1950s with the added security. So if these family roles were already introduced 30 years earlier then how can they be nontraditional? It seems to me that because the economy had had hard times and that the families and women suffered and made sacrifices. Coontz also does not talk about the traditional family structure before the 1900s. It makes me question on how the family structure was at the arrival of settlers to North America. What were the family values and roles that were carried over from other countries and

ENG 112 Critical Response #1 Mimi Jimmy how had colonization affected family culture up to the 1950s? I feel that her brief statement of America having two centuries of child labor and income insecurity is too hasty. When I think of times of the first settlers a different image comes to mind. I think of all the newly claimed and harvested land and houses built, difficult winters and hot summers with the foundation of the newly acquired American dream of hope and freedom. I have a “Little House on the Prairie” image of families all doing their share with the men out in the field or barn and the women in the garden and kitchen in each of their “traditional roles” and at the end of the day they all sit down to a home cooked meal. While my idea of family, pre-1920s, may not be true she does not inform the reader on the actuality of child labor and income insecurity pre-1920s. Though the United States is a young country, Coontz’s claim that the 1950s families were not traditional should not be based on only a few decades of family culture. She talks about government, media and family specialist influenced family structure during the 1950s but I think a big factor would include religion and its influence. She does not take into account religion at all. Religion specifically tells you how to behave in marriage and love. Religion teaches to morals and values of family roles, sex and procreation yet she doesn’t touch on the subject at all. The writing of Coontz I read is only a selection from one of her books. All of these answers may be given in other sections or even in some of her other books she had written. If my questions are not answered throughout her full book then there is a big part of supporting evidence missing from her writing.