What was life in America like in the 1940s?
When World War II ended in 1945, the United States embarked upon
an unprecedented period of economic prosperity, driven by the
increase in industrial production markets brought about by the war.
Unlike the Great Depression and the war years, Americans had a
surplus of goods and services from which to choose, and the money
with which to purchase them. Non-farming businesses grew by
one-third, and housing construction became a booming industry.
However, the economic situation was not improved for the poorest
Americans during this time. The economic boom brought high
inflation, which kept poorer citizens from saving any money, and
small farmers faced hard times because of government policies that
benefitted larger, corporate farmers. The lowest-paid workers in
the country were the migrant farm workers, with sales clerks and
unskilled laborers (such as gas station attendants) not far above
them. Happy, a sales clerk, and Biff, a farm worker, represent this
segment of the American workforce in Death of a Salesman,
and each of them struggles to retain his dignity in the face of his
lowly position in a largely affluent society.