A Quiet Rebellion.
It may not have been clear at the time, but American society, which seemed so stable and prosperous on the surface, was being urged toward revolution in the wake of World War II by a brash generation of artists using bold works to test their ideas. As rebels always are, these young rebels were bitterly opposed by their elders, But as the 1950s progressed, the rebellion seemed to grow increasingly determined, and it became more threatening than it had ever been before.
Cold War Response.
The cold war set the tone for the arts of the decade. Americans enjoyed their image as the most prosperous people in the most powerful nation in the world. Yet they dreaded the centralization of power and the impersonality of life in the atomic age. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), British novelist George Orwell's novel about a totalitarian government that imposed absolute uniformity of thought and action, was read as a warning about the future. "Big Brother is watching you," a refrain from the novel, became a slogan for people who feared the effect of a social organization so powerful that it could control thought and stifle creativity. The 1950s are remembered as a time of complacency. It was also the time when shrill, profane, and menacing voices of individualism and dissidence were raised—Elvis Presley, Jack Kerouac, Thelonious...
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