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Analysis of Modern Concepts in “Self in 1958” by Anne Sexton

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The 1950’s were a time when conformity was popular, sameness was fashionable, and self-expression was discouraged. The new generation of cookie cutter Americans bought mass-produced clothing from catalogues and at chain department stores. New suburban houses looked nearly identical to each other. Kitchens were full of advertised all-electric appliances designed to ease the burden of American housewives’ chores around the home. Television spread the image of an all-American family around the country faster than ever before, and viewers tried to copy the lives of the fictional families, often locking away thoughts and problems of their own to go along with the popular lack of individuality.

“Self in 1958” describes how “fake” people with plastered on smiles go through life showing no signs of hurt, anger, or any other feelings but happiness. Everything was commercialized in the 1950’s. The American Dream became the obsession of carbon copy Ozzie-and-Harriett households. Meanwhile, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were doped up on crack and prescription drugs, Rock Hudson – a major American sex symbol – was secretly a homosexual, Elizabeth Taylor was wrenching apart marriages, and the future President of the United States was entertaining a different girl almost every time he left the house. Celebrities were the major role models of America, for they had achieved the American Dream, but were also the most corrupt and self-serving. If the American Dream was about money and happiness, then they had achieved half of it.

Basically, “Self in 1958” describes the commercialization, conformity, and insignificance of the individual in modern America. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the “average” American are overlooked, and people are often looked upon by higher members of society as toys with which they may promote themselves on the social ladder, with whose minds they can play with and mold to believe whatever they like, and whose personal opinions are moot and insignificant.

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