Metaphor for Possibility.
Many Americans turned their calendars to 1 January 1900 with confidence in the future and pride in the past. The last years of the 1890s had been stable and productive, at least by comparison with the turbulence and depression of the first half of that decade. Technical achievement and manufacturing efficiency—not to mention the colonial empire gained in the Spanish-American War—had secured for the United States a position as an international power, and U.S. citizens enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world. Most Americans believed the new century would reaffirm the assumptions they brought into it: moral values would remain constant; scientific progress would inevitably benefit society; and tradition would continue to nurture art and culture. Belief that order and opportunity were fixed attributes of American life led those who celebrated the arrival of the first decade of the twentieth century to envision the best of all possible futures.
If American culture reflected confidence and optimism in the years 1900-1909, it also promoted complacency and mediocrity. The revolution in technology, communications, and transportation had opened the American imagination to the future, but the conservatism born of middle-class comfort closed American eyes to the plight of the poor, the...
(The entire section is 2743 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of 1900's The Arts Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!