Change Between Modern And New In The

1920S Essay, Research Paper

During the period of the 1920 s, American lifestyle was transforming into a new modern development. The modern development met against a series of spirited and, at times, effective rebellions. The tension between new and changing attitudes, and traditional values and nostalgia, was manifested in tense cultural conflicts. The modernizing currents and tension between the old versus new ideals were most apparent in the areas of religion, race/ethnic, and women. All met with harsh criticism, opposition, and imbalance.

Before the 1920 s, America had based its lifestyle and customs on Christian ideals. However, with the appearance and deep interest in the sciences of the 1920 s, Christian ideals were challenged. Fundamentalists were in favor of Christian ideals, the Bible, and opposed all teachings of Charles Darwin s evolution theory. Fundamentalists insisted that people had been created by God, as described in Genesis. On the other hand, modernists were in favor of science, and the teachings of Charles Darwin s evolution. This tension between science and religion was most apparent and evident in the famous Tennessee Evolution Case of 1925. The trial of evolution was a traumatic experience for the fundamentalist. In the end, Scopes, the biology teacher, was fined $100 and, ultimately, the case was dismissed. (Doc C) William Jennings Bryan, the prosecution, had been made to look as a complete ignorant and uneducated man. The Scopes trial completely devastated the Fundamentalist movement. (Leuchtenberg 218-224) Along with the Scopes trial, writers wrote novels speaking against religion, adding to the tension. Portrayals of the Holy City were contrasted with the normal everyday cities. Modern outlooks were taken and Christian ideals were considered no more than supernatural whoopee. (Doc I) Bruce Barton s book, The Man Nobody Knows , also was evidence of the tension. He depicted Jesus Christ as not only a religious prophet but also a super salesman, who picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.

Gathering strength, opposition to immigrant and other races had gradually increased in the years before the war. Curbs on immigration were passed due to the association of radicalism with immigration. In 1921, Congress passed an emergency immigration act, establishing a quota system by which annual immigration from any country could not exceed 3 percent of the number of persons of that nationality who had been in the United States in 1910. The provincial nativism helped instigate the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. As a major force in American society, blacks, as before were the targets of the Klan. Black saw to engage and express themselves in American life. More and more African Americans experienced work in large cities and adopted a new culture of their own. (Doc E) However, Catholics, Jews, and foreigners were also added to the KKK concerns. The tension between Klan and blacks, Catholics, etc. mounted to the Klan threatening their families, their businesses, and attempting to drive them out of their communities. Occasionally, violence was the resort: public whipping, tarring and feathering, arson, and lynching. Through all of this, the Klan saw themselves as plain people demanding to return power to the everyday average citizen. To them, the Klan fought for the true leadership against betrayed Americanism. (Doc D) The expression of blacks and others only added fuel to the fire in the eyes of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK tension increased with more protests, marches, and physical violence. Only with the repeal of the 18th amendment did the Ku Klux Klan disappear. (Leuchtenberg 205-217)

Women also led to the tension between old and new idealism. In the 1920 s, college educated women were no longer pioneers. Women were graduates of colleges and making a presence in profession areas. However, women now had to combine work with their marriage. This conflict of interest between marriage and new ideals/customs led to a decline in marriage. With this decline, also led to an increase in divorce. The decade of the 1920 s held the highest ratio of divorces to marriages, nearly 1 divorce for every 5 marriages. (Doc H) Rigid Victorian female respectability was replaced so that women could smoke, drink, dance, and wear seductive clothes and makeup. In the 1920 s, the women attended lively parties and strove for physical, emotional fulfillment. The flapper girl was the answer to the modern, liberated female. Women smokers met harsh criticism by other more traditional women. Smoking was seen as unlady-like and unhealthy for women. (Doc G) Prohibition was also an answer, tension, to the increase of alcoholic consumption. The traditional generation wanted to restrain the flamboyance of the flappers and the other modern views. The 18th amendment entailed all the hostility to modernity and outrageous behavior in alcohol. (Leuchtenberg 157-177)

In conclusion, the areas of religion, race/ethnic, and women all had a common hostility to modernity and a desire to arrest change through coercion. Several movements sought to effect this change but met against rivalry and criticism. Modern opposed traditional views in almost all arenas. However, the tension created between the two was considerable. In the 1920 s, American lifestyle was transformed into a new modern development, but not quietly or easily.


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