Grand Expectations is a nonfiction account that explores how life in America changed after World War II.
After World War II, America experienced a boon of prosperity. Many of the jobs created during the expansive war effort remained. Factories that had made weapons and war material were converted for the production of consumer goods. The economy flourished.
One of the biggest transitions was the reentry of soldiers into civilian life. Suddenly consumerism was the epitome of patriotism. Patterson describes how this feeling was captured in a postwar film entitled The Best Years of Our Lives.
In the course of readjusting to civilian life the movie’s three veterans encounter, sometimes bitterly, what they perceive as the runaway materialism and lack of patriotism of postwar society. (p. 14)
This demonstrates how the transition from war hero to consumer was not always easy for returning soldiers, who encompassed most of the young adult male population.
Another important transition Patterson describes in Grand Expectations is the movement of more women into the workforce. Women often worked in factories or businesses during the war, when the men were not available. After the war, some of these women gladly returned to traditional housewife roles—but some chose to remain in the workforce. This was difficult for some men, and other women, to accept. It involved a dramatic shift in gender roles in America.