The Basketball Diaries Historical Context

Jim Carroll

Historical Context

The Cold War
The U.S. use of atomic bombs on Japan ended World War II in 1945, and ushered in the atomic age. After these demonstrations, several countries, including the Soviet Union, rushed to create and test their own atomic bombs. As tensions between the communist Soviet Union and the democratic United States increased, the U.S. government began a policy of backing smaller foreign countries that were in danger of being overthrown by Soviet-backed groups. The resulting tension between the Soviet Union and the United States—and between communism and democracy in general—was labeled the Cold War, and for good reason. Although much of the period was technically spent in peace, the pervasive feeling of suspicion and paranoia that was generated by this clash of superpowers made many feel that they were fighting a war. In the United States, the public was well aware that one mistake on either side could inadvertently trigger World War III. In the diaries, Carroll describes on many occasions what it was like growing up as a ‘‘war baby’’ in a major city during the Cold War, living in constant fear that he was going to die in a nuclear attack:

It’s always been the same, growing up in Manhattan. . . . the idea of living within a giant archer’s target . . . for use by the bad Russia bowman with the atomic arrows.

Vietnam and the Antiwar Movement
Although the peak years of the...

(The entire section is 512 words.)