ENGL 433-Modernist Elements Within Literature.docx -...

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Danielle N. Shafer ENGL 433 December 2019 Modernist Elements Within Literature Modernism in literature follows a time at the end of the 1800s that reflects unrest and rev- olution; a break from traditional world views after World War I, which forced many into a con- stant struggle between the consciousness of “how things were” versus “how things could be.” Many authors during this period, referred to as “The Lost Generation,” expressed a notion of feeling disconnected from their social surroundings and struggled to find purpose or fulfillment amongst their peers, which caused a sharp break from traditional conventions. In the following works, we can see common trends of modernist elements that depict disillusionment, hopeless- ness, the complexity of consciousness, and a feeling of alienation in both society and the literary world. During this period, many authors demonstrated a sense of detachment and disconnect, with lack of worth or meaning. In T.S. Eliot's “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” there is an underlying tone of fragmentation and alienation, both of which reflect characteristics of mod- ernist poetry. The narrator in this poem acts as a sort of “wallflower,” and though he talks of vis- its and parties, and says that he has "known them all already, known them all" (line 49), it seems that he is an outsider, watching things happen all around him yet never participating. He imag- ines walking on the beach and hearing the mermaids sing, but says "I do not think that they will sing to me" (Line 125), as he wonders whether he should have been "a pair of ragged
claws//Scuttling across the floors of silent seas" (Lines 73-74), which suggests that he rather be living a solitary life in the deep, cold ocean instead of “linger[ing] in the chambers” of a “sea” of people (Line 129). Through this motif, Eliot attempts to convey the “meaning” of life while mulling over his alienation with the society that surrounds him. He can’t seem to make any progress in life approach women due to his timidity. His indecisiveness of whether or not to en- gage in casual social situations is also caused by his self-isolation, as he finds himself in living a life of complexity, which is his own personal hell. The inner workings of consciousness was another common subject for modernists to ex- press through their literature. In the poem, “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens, we get a sense of the author’s understanding of the interaction between reality and the complexity of our com- prehension of it. According to Stevens, reality is what you make of it, and it is completely de- fined by our individual subjective human perception. In this particular work, this theme reflects on how we experience and give meaning to the world. Stevens contradicts the start of his own poem by the end of it, suggesting that someone with the “mind of winter” (Line 1) would “regard

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