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American FatherhoodA History$
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Jürgen Martschukat

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892273

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892273.001.0001

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Fatherhood in World War II and the Cold War, 1940–1960

Fatherhood in World War II and the Cold War, 1940–1960

(p.182) 10 Fatherhood in World War II and the Cold War, 1940–1960
American Fatherhood

Jürgen Martschukat

NYU Press

Chapter 10 turns to World War II and the Cold War, and it is one of two chapters in the book with a nuclear family, as commonly understood, at its center. If there ever was an age of the nuclear family, it was in the long 1950s with the expanding American consumer and Cold War culture. The chapter is written from the perspective of Tom Rath, the main character of a 1955–56 best-selling book and movie, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a character who became an iconic figure in public and sociological discourse immediately. The chapter shows how in the 1950s the heteronormative ideal of family, work, and consumption was praised louder than ever and at the same time blamed for paralyzing American men in the conformity trap of their suburban homes and their inner-city offices. Thus, again, the chapter revolves around conflicting demands addressed to American men, here to serve as a reliable father on the one side and as an energetic explorer on the other side. The author shows how these demands are expressed by ambiguous understandings of how American manhood should safeguard the stability and progress of American society.

Keywords:   World War II, Cold War, Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

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