In the long years between 1947 and around 1957, fear of communism froze the very voices of America into unison. A supposedly enlightened country, the United States of America succumbed to the mass hysteria of the Red Scare with shockingly little resistance. Communist “Reds” and Communist sympathizing “Pinks” were seen everywhere and were often persecuted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (also known by the inaccurate acronym HUAC). Many of these individuals’ only crime was that of sensibility; they saw the truth behind the terrifying chaos. One of the best records of this dark chapter in America’s history is its literature, which expressed opinion when it could be dangerous to do so. The American public’s paranoid fear of communism and other extremist organizations is evident in the literature of the period, which reflects the conformist mind frame.
World War II had barely ended when the Cold War began in 1945 and with it, a time in which American culture stressed patriotism and fervent hatred of anything remotely Communist. The fear and paranoia of the cold war eliminated social and political nonconformity and created a strict, conformist society where traditional values of family, domesticity, and religion were forcefully embraced by most Americans (Maltz 61). For works by authors such as Ayn Rand, who detested the very principal of communism, this meant a wildly enthusiastic acceptance. In her 1946 novella Anthem, Rand wrote about a dystopian society in which the motto is “We are one in all and all in one./There are no men but only the great WE./ One, indivisible and forever” (Rand 19). The protagonist, Equality 7-2521, later known as Prometheus, is ‘cursed’ with an individualistic streak that will not allow him to dissolve into the collective will of his brothers. “‘We’…is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of sages” (Rand 97). So states Prometheus after his discovery of singular pronouns in a world where only the plural forms are permitted, under the threat of execution.
The parallel between Rand’s hive-minded society and the fear of communism in America is abundantly clear. Most American’s saw communism as an all-consuming force, slowly but surely winding its way into their politics and ultimately, their homes (Zeinert 67). There was a fear that America would become a Communist society like the one in Anthem, an unhappy, oppressed people deluded into preserving their way of life for fear of change and the responsibility of freedom. The idea that Communist’s are everywhere is a pervading theme throughout the cold war and red scare and a continuing trend in the literature of the time.
Not all works were so openly anti-communist however, just as not all individuals believed that communism was the threat it was made out to be. When Senator Joe McCarthy came into power in the 1950’s he brought fear into the hearts...