Review by Kirkus Book Review
A sociological examination of the home life of the 1950's as a reflection of Cold War imperatives; by May (American Studies/Univ. of Minnesota), author of Great Expectations: Marriage and Divorce in Post-Victorian America (1980). It is a great irony that in an era of international tension that found its greatest symbol in young schoolchildren crouched, hands behind heads, in school basements in preparation for the coming of Armageddon, America could have had a self-perception of domestic tranquility, itself symbolized by the vapidity of Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, et al. Here, May explores this connection and, by bringing public policy and political ideology to bear on the study of private life, places the family within the larger political culture rather than outside of it. Ultimately, she finds that the ""domestic revival"" of the 1950's arose out of an ""intense need to feel liberated from the past and secure in the future."" In an age in which many Americans perceived internal decay (so much so that they were willing to follow McCarthy for a time), ""the family seemed to offer a psychological fortress that would protect them against themselves."" May draws on a wide range of sources--particularly movies, mass magazines, newspapers, and numerous professional writings. But her thesis is derived heavily from the Kelly Longitudinal Study (KLS), which consists of a series of ongoing surveys of some 600 white middle-class men and women who formed families during those years. By monitoring these studies, May found that the typical middle-class family of the 1950's wanted ""secure jobs, secure homes, and secure marriages in a secure country."" But, in conclusion, she finds that the hard realities of life left those dreams unfulfilled, creating a strong undercurrent of discontent that fueled the succeeding generation's libertarian movement. A book that mixes keen social observation with limited usefulness (the KLS focus on white middle-class types is severely restricting). May has given us better, but for now this will have to do. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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