A new sense of awareness washedover minorities in our nation, especially blacks who began to realize that theywere entitled to their own subculture, pursuit of success, and share of theAmerican dream. This ideal was expressed by Langston Hughes in “The NegroArtist and the Racial Mountain. ” They were supported by the growing number ofyoung, financially well-to-do liberals who formed the new intelligencia. Eachgroup sought the use of logic and rational reasoning in their rethinking ofreevaluation of society’s current status. Still, they constituted a minorityand their reformist views were not well-taken by the greater part of thepopulation who had become accustomed to a certain way of thinking were notwilling to budge, thus keeping the radicals silent. Individualism was alsopartially suppresse d by the succession of three traditionalist Republicanpresidents whose partiality to the strong was displayed by their strong backingof big business while discouraging the Labor Union movement.
Literature was onemedium by which the new intelligencia could express their views onimpracticality and injustice of the social system and government in the 1920’s. Sinclair Lewis was one such author who used his writing to condemn thestale and outdated ways of thinking that were so widely popular in our nationduring the 1920’s. In addition to exposing the poor working conditions of mostfactory labor, particularly the meat-packing industry, he criticized the commonman who could not think or act individually in his novel, Babbit, which waspublished in 1922. His description from the novel of the common man portrayed aperson who acted in a manner that was socially acceptable who also strived forsuccess based on society’s definition of purchasing material goods. In essencehe was a man defined by the society that he lived in. Religion was also a topic of controversy during the twenties.
Traditionalists who were usually older and less intelligent than the risingyoung class of liberal intellectuals were primarily Christian and would onlyaccept literal interpretations of the Bible. The liberals were not so quick totake the Bible at face value and came up their own interpretations. The tensionbetween the old and the new regarding religion was perhaps most obviouslyprevalent at the Tennessee Evolution Court Case of 1925. In this time of where individual thinking was a rarity, publicmisconception and ignorance ran abound. People looked to scapegoats to accountfor society’s problems.
Often minorities such as black in addition to the youngliberals were the source of such a scapegoat. For this reason, the Ku Klux Klanexperienced widespread popularity during the 1920’s. The KKK relieved themajority of white conservative America of any responsibility for theshortcomings of society. It also gave them a sense of security by forming alarge alliance against minorities. The conflict between patrons of the KKK and the uprising group ofintellectual liberals was quite flagrant. The young continued to take moreliberties and adhered less to society’s standards than the preceding generation.
They sought self-satisfaction rather than living in harmony with the rest ofsociety. As a result, many non-traditional trends began to appear in the livesof the young liberals in the 1920’s. Women began to feel more sexuallyliberated and realized that they also had needs aside from only existing toaccommodate their male counterparts. Many women also took up smoking, anactivity previously delegated exclusively to men. In addition, more and morewomen pursued jobs outside of the home.
The rate of divorce rose during thesetimes as well. The young generation had stopped living their lives according totraditional society values and had inserted their own sets of desires, goals,and values by which to live instead.