The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s

By Gary Dean Best | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Historian Frederick Marks III has written that "the years spanning the New Deal must be described as belonging to an age of delayed adolescence, one which found a fitting symbol in FDR."1 There is certainly much about the popular culture of the 1930s that deserves description as adolescent, even childish. Regression into an earlier, happier stage of life is, as we have seen, described by psychologists as a frequent method of escape from unpleasant realities. It is, perhaps, one explanation for much of the behavior during the 1930s that is otherwise so baffling.

Many observers of the popular culture of the 1930s linked aspects of it to psychological causes or came very near to doing so. We have seen in the preceding pages references to Americans seeking relief in "manic amusements" when in the "dumps"; to "staid people who want something else to think about" acting like little children; to people explaining their obsession with jigsaw puzzles because of their usefulness in escaping from thinking and worrying; to the "adult infantilism" of the 1930s; to the American desire to be "welded... into a safe mass"; to the popular literature of the 1930s as "a literature, not of inquiry, but of distraction," designed to take its readers "momentarily out of reality"; to the role of radio and the movies in assisting Americans "to escape monotonous, graceless reality," by transporting them "to a never-never land of adventure and romance uncomplicated by thought"; and many others.

Bernard DeVoto found similarities between the 1930s and the depressed 1840s. In both decades there was

a vacillation between rebellious, evangelical excitement and stunned apathy. Maladjustment and panic produced social pathology, as they always do. To-day

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