The Effect of Modernism on American Society.
After World War I, American literature seemed to sway towards a distinctively pessimistic view of society. Out of the ashes of industrialism rose a significant form of literature called “modernism-. Modernism broke free from outdated romanticized morality and rejected nineteenth-century optimism. The modernist presented society to the idea that their culture was in disarray, which created a sense of apathy and apparent moral questioning. Modernism is a form of literature that forms a bond between the author and the reader. This bond tends to cause the reader to question their inbred beliefs and perhaps even ponder the thought that there are other answers to life questions then what one was taught to believe, perhaps even asks the reader to step beyond society’s traditional boundaries. The elements that are found within the modernistic writing are really what defines it. These characteristics are the presence of existentialism, alienation, complex play with form or language, and juxtaposition. Modernism was an attempt to cause society to break into something new and discard old beliefs that would no longer be useful to them through the use of these elements.
Existentialism is a major underlying theme in modernistic writing. This belief rose from the idea that man is a conscious being. Man exists only through his conscious mind. Human beings can’t be manipulated by any spiritual essence and the basis of our existence is suffering. Existentialists believe that man exists for no reason only by pure chance and his focus in life is individual freedom and choice. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Spring- is almost a clear definition of the existentialistic attitude. She uses a flowery and sarcastic tone to describe the nothingness in life. She writes, “life in itself is nothing, and empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs, it is not enough that yearly down this hill, April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.