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The Title Is Coney Island: The Prozac Of The Early 20th Century.

1237 words - 5 pages

Troi IronsHist 202BProfessor Endy1-29-07Coney Island: The Prozac of the Early 20th CenturyImmigrants, factory workers, and middle to upper class citizens alike, needed breaks from the burdens of their daily lives. The immigrants and factory workers needed a recess from their strenuous jobs and poverty-stricken lives, while the better off individuals needed a vacation from the demands of the structures of society. Coney Island became this universal Prozac by which people could forget their troubles "in the intense sensations of the moment". (Kasson, 81)Coney Island began in 1829, as a mere "seaside seclusion" for wealthy people. It had the usual utilities, such as restaurants, saloons, and ...view middle of the document...

Coney Island let people forget the outside world and condensed all the social classes into one class by providing different forms of entertainments that could reach out to all varieties of people and different cultures (Kasson, 39-40).This variety included the upper class citizens. For them, the amusement park "tested accustomed social roles", and "mocked established social order" (Kasson, 50). By doing so, it freed them from the shackles of the structured society, and the "naughtiness of violating customary proprieties" (Kasson, 47) and succumbing to those "violent, dangerous pleasures" (Kasson, 88) fascinated them. In the outside industrial world, the members of the middle and upper class were required to behave a certain way, wear specific kinds of clothes, and work in a certain job field. Coney Island was a different "dream" world "where all is bizarre and fantastic" and "gayer and more different from the every-day world" (Kasson, 69). It was completely free from the laws of society, and allowed even the wealthier citizens, in addition to anyone else who visited, to be free for a day, or however long they chose to stay at Coney Island.However, this universal Prozac was bound to have some side effects. Coney Island was a magnet for gamblers, whores, and con men (Kasson, 29). In addition to harboring these unpleasantries, the amusement park contributed to a gradual rise in tolerance of lewdness. Postcards, photographs, and even rides captured this increasing permissiveness. There was even one ride called the "Cannon Coaster" that advertised with "Will she throw her arms around your neck and yell? Well, I guess yes" (Kasson, 43).Many of the critics played out these downsides in their arguments against the amusement park. Yet, these critics were rich "ministers, educators, and reformers" who became the leaders of the genteel culture (Kasson, 4). Being wealthier than their neighbors were, the rich believed themselves to be "the mere trustee and agent for [their] poorer brethren" (Industrialization, 77). Thus, a world where the immigrants and lower class citizens could escape from the wisdom and overflowing knowledge of their superiors was an outrage. Some may have had altruistic motives, but the majority probably did not. They argued that Coney Island promoted promiscuity, lesser morals, and that it was not civil. An alternative to this mindless foolishness was the White City or Central Park. It was reported that once in Central Park, "rude, noisy...

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