Norman Rockwell’s art seems to capture the particular image of mid-century America. Dads who smoke pipes, kids playing baseball in the yard, teenagers hanging around soda jerks – the image of America as a small-town, full of honest, hardworking people can be seen in his illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Whether these depictions are accurate or not, they do contribute to a nostalgic kind of patriotism, and a longing for the golden years.
Freedom of Speech is a particularly interesting piece. It seems to reinforce some of the ideas we’ve already been discussing – the idea of an underdog, the importance of blue collar working class citizens, the importance of the individual. The man’s clothing compared to those around him is the most immediate visual detail – his plaid shirt and dirty jacket suggest a much different line of work than the men around him, who wear white shirts and ties. The coloring of the man also makes him stand out more – there are more blues and yellows in his image. In contrast to the men around him, it seems to be making the statement that the blue collar citizens of America are what make the country vibrant. It was also an interesting choice to depict the man standing alone, as opposed to appearing united with a group or even one other person. This definitely speaks to the pride in individualism found in the United States. Though his clothes suggest he’s a working class man, and his juxtaposition against the well-dressed older men around him indicates an underdog story (a narrative linked back to the founding fathers who stood up as a small group against the British), it’s interesting to note that his class status seems to be the only different thing about him. He’s still a young, white man. Is this how Rockwell thinks of America? A hard-working underdog that still possess the qualities of those in power? I’m curious about Rockwell’s depiction of race and gender in his works . . .
– caitlin s. weigel