Historical Context

Written in the middle of one of the most kaleidoscopic decades in American history, “Deep Woods” includes almost as much hodgepodge reflecting on mankind’s history as one would need to describe the 1950s—almost, but not quite. This decade is difficult to define in terms of any one great scientific invention, social movement, war, art or entertainment development, political action, or technological advancement. All these things and more occurred, causing the 1950s to stand alone in an era of innovation and changing attitudes. After World War II, Americans in particular were anxious to keep the economic boom provided by the conflict growing ever stronger and to avoid the miserable conditions of the pre-war depression. World War II also taught Americans that science could have a greater impact on the lives of ordinary citizens than they had ever imagined. The atomic bomb brought a mixture of fear and pride to many individuals and would pave the way for the “Red Scare,” McCarthyism, and air raid drills that all became a part of the culture of the 1950s.

The decade began with the United States involved in another overseas conflict, this time in Korea, where American and South Korean troops battled Chinese and North Korean troops over control of the entire country. At the end of the Second World War, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel, the northern half becoming communist, the southern half an ally of the United States. Although the division was intended to be temporary—only until a national election could be held—skirmishes began to break out along the dividing line, turning into all-out war by 1950. When an armistice was finally signed in 1953, a demilitarized zone was established at the 38th parallel, and the country remained divided. This confrontation with communism established America’s role as the “policeman” for the world, with the determination to stop the spread of communism a rallying cry for American involvement in other nations’ internal affairs. This, in turn, led to the arms race and the...

(The entire section is 836 words.)