A Dream of Greatness (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Geoffrey Perrett is an energetic researcher and writer. The present work is a sequel to his comprehensive Days of Sadness, Years of Triumph: The American People, 1939-1945 (1973), which tried to capture the complexity and scope of life in the country during World War II. A Dream of Greatness is even larger and more ambitious, almost nine hundred pages of information, anecdotes, character sketches, and opinions about a period that is considered fairly dull and barren and commonly viewed through a haze of nostalgia. Perrett, however, argues that these were particularly exciting years, a time when Americans believed they were destined for “greatness.” This was not a time when there were “the bland leading the bland,” but rather when “America represented, to the ordinary people at home and overseas, vigor and daring—thinking big, acting big.”
Americans emerged from World War II full of hope, but were soon faced with staggering problems—economic dislocations, unemployment, labor unrest and strikes, inflation—and a conservative mood in Washington. President Harry Truman, a complex man admired by Perrett, was unable to extend New Deal programs. While the author devotes some space to such traditional topics, he is more interested in the state of public schooling (he criticizes the Life Adjustment curriculum for its antiintellectualism), the expansion of higher education, the growth of suburbs, the expansion of consumer...
(The entire section is 1892 words.)
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