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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 360

The American Dream is a theme present in Hidden Figures. The women pursue careers and families, and work to better their lives. Dorothy Vaughan works as both a math teacher and in a military laundry room to provide for her family. She takes the NACA mathematician job, even though it means she will be far from her family, because it is a good job. Katherine Coleman studies hard and is accepted into an integrated master's program, but she drops out so she can start a family. Years later, she pursues a career in mathematics again. The choices these women make are in the pursuit of happiness—the pursuit of having both a family and moving up in a career. The women are persistent in pursuing their dreams:

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Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.

Another theme that is significant to the backdrop of the account is conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The women are hired to assist in the technological pursuits of the United States. Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan are working at NACA during the Cold War. The United States stands up against oppression under Communism, while at the same time black citizens are still oppressed.

Through its inability to solve its racial problems, the United States handed the Soviet Union one of the most effective propaganda weapons in their arsenal.
Newly independent countries around the world, eager for alliances that would support their emerging identities and set them on their path to long-term prosperity, were confronted with a version of the same question black Americans had asked during World War II. Why would a black or brown nation stake its future on America's model of democracy when within its own borders the United States enforced discrimination and savagery against people who looked just like them?

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik in 1957, which triggers a Space Race with the United States. Katherine Johnson is instrumental in working with the Space Task Force to send Apollo 11 to the moon.


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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 354

Themes of Hidden Figures include racism, sexism, and the drive to achieve something. The book chronicles the lives of black women working at NASA as "human computers" who do difficult math by hand and in their heads. It takes place in the 1950s and 1960s.

Racism is a major theme in the book. The author points out that people of color or different religious faiths found it almost impossible to work in jobs in the scientific community. One of the lowest represented people were black women. When the women the author follows went to work at NASA, they...

(The entire section contains 714 words.)

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