The Fragility of Masculinity:
Revolutionary Road Characterizes the Fracturing of the Male Identity in the 1950s
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates takes place in 1955, in the
suburbs of America, and examines the inner life of an unhappily married, middle-class couple—Frank and April Wheeler. This novel highlights some of the key issues of this era; including the need for perfection within the American family, the shift to life in the suburbs, as well as the changing face of masculinity. Throughout the story, Frank purports to disdain the traditional American suburban lifestyle: where each family is expected to be identical, they dress the same, live in the same style of home, do the same things, and each aims to appear perfect. However, his outward contempt is actually a camouflage to hide his lack of confidence in his own masculinity and deflects his fear—his inability to fulfill his role as a man within the traditional family. Frank is insecure about his own manliness, but he is not experiencing this doubt in isolation; instead his reactions and responses reflect the prevalent uncertainty about masculinity during this post-war era. The suburban lifestyle and male expectations were encapsulated in television shows during this time with the longest running show being The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Both Frank’s and Ozzie’s struggles with their masculinity embody the changing face of masculinity in the 1950s.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet epitomize the lifestyle that Frank scorns because they depict the perfect, traditional, conservative American family where everyone appears happy. Continue reading The Fragility of Masculinity