White Picket Fences: A Part of the American Dream?

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, Copy Editor

In U.S. History these past couple weeks we have been learning about the 40s and 50s. We have learned about hippies, radicals, communists and the economy. However, the main focus last week was the creation of White Suburbia and it’s alignment with the American Dream.

White Suburbia was a name for the suburbs when they were first created. It was a way for people to get out of the city and live a different way of life. However, with the segregation and environment during that time period the only people who could really afford to move were those who were white. Hence why it was called “White Suburbia.” Many people at the time viewed moving to the suburbs as accomplishing the American Dream. The American Dream is subjective and everyone has their own opinion on it, however it is most commonly aligned with family, money and power. People thought that raising a family in the suburbs was a way to accomplish that.

However, in order to move to the suburbs they had to be built. Building the suburbs meant new designs and architecture. The majority of the house were built in the same style and around the same size. They were what we call “Cookie Cutter” homes today. And many of those homes included a white picket fence.

White picket fences were first introduced in the 40s and eventually died off due to the Cold War, which made transporting picket to build said fences difficult. They became popular again in the 80s. However, throughout this time the white picket fence made an impact on how people viewed the good life and it is still used quite often today. White picket fences pretty much symbolized success and accomplishments. They showed money and power. It was essentially the American Dream in an inanimate object.

Many advertisements continued to use the fence to show the stereotypical family life. In fact a lot of commercials use them today to symbolize the perfect family. Although we still seem white picket fences in the media, we no longer see them much around houses. Many homeowner associations do not allow the fences as you can see through them and easily climb through the pickets. They believe it kind of defeats the purpose of a fence. Nowadays, there are just more practical options like a chainlink fence or a classic wood fence.

A white picket fence is what everyone hopes to accomplish at some point in their lives, or at least used to be. I think society is outgrowing this symbol however as the normal is changing. People are starting to no longer believe in the perfect family. Some people do not want kids, others do not want to be married. People live in apartments and out of vans instead of in a house on a street. The world is different now, and that is causing many symbols, like the white picket fence, to lose their meaning.