The Green Glass Sea Emma Breen

New Mexico

Geographical Context

Life on 'the Hill'
  • Families were often separated.
  • Security on the Hill was very strict and all outgoing or incoming mail was read.
  • Directly before Dewey's (the 11-year-old protagonist's) father is about to leave for business, "She patted his arm. 'I'll stay up here, let you two say good-bye in private. Or what passes for private in this goldfish bowl'" (Klages 135).

'The Hill'

  • The Manhattan Project was the government's first attempt at creating an atomic bomb.
  • The New Mexico site was dubbed the 'Trinity Site'. It was chosen in Alamogordo for its flat terrain and consistently dry weather, 230 miles south of Los Alamos (location of the Hill).
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer directed the Los Alamos Laboratory.
  • The bomb was nicknamed 'Gadget', often referred to in the book, "Dewey thinks about the gadget a lot. The gadget that will end the war. That is the truth of the Hill, why they are all here. If the gadget works, the war will end and they will all be heroes. Dewey hates the war as much as anyone" (Klages 266).
  • In preparation for the test, Edward Creutz and Don Hornig ran a series of dress rehearsals, both failing one rehearsal each.

Historical Context and Background

Women's Army Corps

Women's Army Corps
  • Over 150,000 women enlisted, the first women to serve in military rank.
  • In WWI, women who served as communications specialists or dietitians did not receive the food, housing, benefits, or pensions offered to male veterans.
  • In 1941, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers advocated for equal pay and rank for women, but the army was unwilling to comply.
  • That same year, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was introduced as a compromise bill that allowed women into the ranks but provided them with less pay than men with the same rank. They were not apart of the regular army.
  • Senate approved the bill May 14, 1941 and Roosevelt signed the bill May 15, 1941.
  • Although the majority of the 40 black women who enlisted held the same background as any other enlistee, they were segregated into a separate platoon.
  • When the U.S. was going to join the Allied Forces, they needed a much larger army.
  • July 3, 1943, the Women's Army Corps was signed to allow women into the regular army.

War Organizations and Major Events

  • Top Left: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Top Middle: April 12, 1945—Roosevelt's death by stroke touched the people's hearts across the country, "The sight of an army MP with a rifle in his hands and tears in his eyes was both unsettling and reassuring. They were all in this together" (Klages 171).
  • Top Right, Bottom Left: April 30, 1945—Hitler's death by suicide; April 28, 1945—Mussolini's death by execution, "Suze felt like the world was a giant jigsaw puzzle, and in the last month all the important pieces had been removed, one after another, leaving blanks and unfamiliar names. Roosevelt, Mussolini, Hitler. All dead. It just didn't seem real" (Klages 192).
  • Bottom Right: September 2, 1945—World War II's end, "They danced around the tiny kitchen, arms linked together, both shouting, 'It's over!' to the cacophony of the box of spaghetti, until the radio began to blare out 'The Star-Spangled Banner" (Klages 197).
  • After the bomb was created, there was controversy over whether or not it was ethical to use, and a petition was signed by many scientists to warn the Japanese before the bomb was dropped. However, it never reached the president.
  • After the war began, many colleague scientists could no longer speak to each other, let alone work together, "'If we win this war, I'll always be free to do what I love. To solve problems, to teach, to share my discoveries. A lot of my colleagues can't. Some of them have died for it?' 'Because they did math?' 'Because they were Jewish'" (Klages 126).
  • Trinity Bomb Site:

Social Context

Gender Inequality

  • Women just recently entering the army as WAC's.
  • Elder generations not approving of new/progressive actions of women, "It is almost finished, and she has been wanting to test it for a week, but Mrs. Kovack didn't approve of girls building things and was always watching" (Klages 13).
  • Cleaners of the Hill were Hispanic women.
  • It proved challenging for a woman to participate or show interest in topics socially accepted only in a man's line of work, "In Dewey's room, Mrs. Gordon asked about the pieces of equipment, and told her a story about getting her first chemistry set, when she was Dewey's age. That was in 1920, when it was even harder to be a girl" (Klages 244).

Social Classes

  • Quality of housing correlated with occupation and income, "She lived in one of the houses over on Bathtub Row, because her father was a big shot... 'Oh, but it would be so nice to live in a real house. With a bathtub,' Joyce said, sighing... Her father was a physicist, but no one was supposed to talk about that, so people called them 'fizzlers.' Chemists were 'stinkers.' Suze's mother was a stinker" (Klages 50,51).

Racial Inequality

  • Generalization of entire German race for actions of extremists, "'So is Leibniz a Nazi?' 'Hardly. He died more than two hundred years ago, long before there were any Nazis.' He shook his head. 'Don't make the mistake of throwing out a whole culture just because some madmen speak the same language'" (Klages 54).
  • Cleaners of the Hill were Hispanic.
  • Use of the racial slang 'Jap' and its presence in young children's comic books.
Comics of the 1940's

Cultural Context

Gender Roles

  • Female Hispanic cleaners.
  • Women and children generally talked and played on weekends while men conversed about science.
  • Lack of female representation in media, specifically the sciences, "Suze reached in and picked up a book, riffling the pages with a thumb. 'The Boy Mechanic,' she said, snickering. 'Why do you have that?' 'They didn't make one for girls,' Dewey replied" (Klages 141, 142).
  • Lack of female empowerment in children's media, "'There are a lot of captains,' Dewey said. 'Are all the heroes men?' Suze nodded. 'All the captains, yeah. Most of the others too... And Brenda Starr, but she's boring because she's just a reporter. Mostly she just gets rescued. Or kissed.' Suze made a face" (Klages 204).

Racial Diversity and Discrimination

  • "Carmelita nodded and trotted off to catch up with the other women. Every weekday morning, women from the pueblo of San Ildefonso boarded an army bus that brought them to the Hill to clean the apartments of women who worked in the labs" (Klages 77).
  • The Hill was somewhat diverse due to the boiling pot of knowledge required to win the war and defeat the Japanese, "'Where's Terry?' asked the other man. He had an accent and it sounded like Vere's. 'Still in the lab. You know how it is, Hans.' 'We all put in our time,' the man said, shaking his head. 'And you, liebchen? How are you tonight?'" (Klages 86).


Created with images by SurfArt - "water green golf" • skeeze - "sunset landscape rocks"

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