Values of the 1920s and 1930s

When people think of the 1900s, one of the most remarkable historic events, which instantly comes to mind, was the Great Depression of 1930s. Pictures of joyless faces wrinkled by hardships are remembered and pitied. However, most people forget that prior to the Great Depression the United States of America experienced many positive blessings in the previous decade - the 1920s. According to the author’s thesis, the 1920s values greatly contrasted with those of the 1930s because of the experiences and national events. Since the 1920s was a successful decade in all aspects including financial, women’s rights, and lifestyles, the values were individualistic and selfish. As for the latter decade, the values of social cooperation and  assisting each other  reflected the country’s grave and dire events.

            Known as the Modernists, people living in the 1920s greatly valued independence, which was the driving force and foundation for all other values and beliefs. Selfish and materialistic Americans started migrating to cities where life was vibrant and free from rural social limitations. Traditional ethics was discarded because people accepted doing anything in order to gain social and financial status. Furthermore, modernists lived in the present, at the same time planning to have comfortable lives in the future, which required one to constantly compete with others around him or her, rushing to gain the best resources, job and lifestyle before anyone else. This meant detaching oneself from past family customs and developing new identities. The new identities sacrificed the old ones, especially involving the religious aspects, as modernists detested religious rulings, which would threaten their social independence. 

            As for moral values, modesty experienced a decrease as women’s clothing became more revealing, turning into shorter skirts and sleeveless dresses. This time challenged traditional gender values and women started to fight for their independence, which was successful as they were given the right to vote in the 1920s. It also became more acceptable for men and women to mingle socially and test the social boundaries between gender relationships. All these values were a result of booming economy, great success of the stock market and technological advancements, which provided ease for Americans thus putting their focus on changing past values to those best suited for the current times. For instance, the increase in the number of factories resulted in higher production of goods such as the radio, the iron, and washing machines, which changed people’s selfless values into materialistic and greedy ones. 

            On the contrary, the 1930s experienced famine, depression and political tensions. Starting with the stock market crash, the country’s economy was crippled, which led to people becoming displaced and unemployed. The government lacked support and people were pushed to their maximum emotional and physical limits as they were forced to live with as little as possible. The values rightly reflected these events and were affected by them. Everything was seen through black and white lenses, leaving no room for the grey. Honesty, hard work, and practicality were valued and the 1920’s independence diminished because of the need for Americans to come together as a community and rely on each other for aid. Religious centers became the focus again because they were imperative in keeping people’s spirits high and motivated. 

            Because of the severe depression and unemployment, gender relations were once again affected negatively as men did not know how to deal with their burdens. Household value standards decreased as domestic abuse increased, people left families and ran away to escape burden and misery, and suicide rates skyrocketed. However, ultimately, family values gained momentum as working together was crucial. Moreover, leisure activities involved board games, stage shows and telling stories, which meant spending more time with people and greatly depending on each other for physical and emotional stability. 

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