American Literature America`s thinking During the Modern Era
AmericanLiterature: America’s thinking During the Modern Era
Theperiod between the two world wars saw a significant change in theAmerican society as the country experienced great economic, politicaland technological transformations. First, during the First World War,America’s entry into the arena saw significantly largetransformations in the local industries as more supplies wererequired to meet the demands of the Great War (Baym,Levine and Franklin 4).In fact, America was supplying France and Britain, its Europeanallies during the war, with weapons and other industrial suppliesneeded at the time (Baym,Levine and Franklin 4).As a result, more industries emerged, triggering the need foradditional workforce. Secondly, the need for more supplies andindustries triggered the emergence of a technological advancement tomeet the war demands. Third, after the war was over, European nationswere economically and socially devastated and needed more supplies,and the chief source was the US (Baym,Levine and Franklin 4).In addition, the collapse of many European industries meant reducedsocial development. At the time, unemployment affected millions ofpeople. But America’s industries needed more manpower, which gavemany European experts and skilled laborers the employment theyneeded. As a result, there was an influx of trained, skilled andindustrious people into the US from European nations. Moreover,America’s industrial development during and after the first worldwar and the Great Depression of the 1930s caused massive rural-urbanmigration, which resulted in more social, economic and ideologicaltransformation. Consequently, America became a center of trade,innovation, technological and social development. Together, thesefactors changed the American thought between 1917 and 1945 (Baym,Levine and Franklin 8).
Thechange in the American thought can be seen in the kind of literaturethat emerged during the modern era, that is, between the two greatwars. In particular, the social, economic and ideological developmentchanged the people’s perceptions of themselves and their society.Specifically, authors and poets responded to the changes in theirtime in particular ways. In this era, the high modernism form ofliterature emerged. In this genre, authors and poets developed themesthat clearly reflected the reality in their society. They reflectedthe actual experiences of the people at their times by criticalapproach, citing the changes that came with modernism in the era. Forinstance, the idea of the loyalty to the law, family, and leisure isgreatly explored in some of the literal works of the time. In WilliamFaulkner’s Barn Burning, the conflict between loyalties to thefamily versus loyalty to the law in a fast changing society isexplored. Sartoris is in a dilemma because he must decide whether tobe to remain loyalty to his family or the law. His father, Snopes,represents the older generation and was there before the modernismera while Sartoris belongs to the modern era. He demands loyalty fromhis son, but Sartoris must be subject to the changing times and thelaw (Faulkner 57). Similarly, in Scott Fitzgerald’s BabylonRevisited, the idea of the conflict between the past and modernity isexplored. In this case, Charlie, who tries to live in the two worlds,must escape the past to fit in the modern era. But the past seemsinescapable to him. He moves back to Paris from the US, but life inthe modernist America has changed him and makes it difficult to fitin the society (Fitzgerald 14). His life in America, just like Helen,has allowed him to acquire money, which he likes spending like othermodern Americans. In a similar way, Hemmingway’s “Snows of MountKilimanjaro reflect the life of the high modern Americans who haveacquired wealth during the transformation period and are seeking touse it as they want and away from home (Hemmingway 28). For instance,Harry, having acquired wealth from the industrially and economicallytransforming America, goes to Africa to spend money rather thanremaining loyal and committed to his family back home.
Inconclusion, the three authors provide evidence of the life, conflictsand social impacts that the transformations in the modern era had onthe lives of Americans. With a lot of wealth and opportunities, manyAmericans found themselves in life conflicts as they have to fightthe old ways and embrace modernity.
Baym,Nina, Robert S. Levine and Wayne Franklin. TheNorton Anthology of American Literature, Eighth Edition – Vol. 2.New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.
Faulkner,William. “BarnBurning.”SelectedShort Stories of William Faulkner.New York: The Modern Library 2011. Print.
Fitzgerald,Scott. BabylonRevisited.New York: Norton, 2011. Print.
Hemmingway,Ernest. Snowsof Kilimanjaro.New York: Norton, 2013. Print.
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