Modernism Essay Example and Its Reflection in Literature

"Marked by a strong and intentional break with tradition. This break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views"(Lorcher). Modernism was popular throughout the 1910s through the 1960s. As stated by Rahn, this shift was generated by "...series of cultural shocks" including World War I, the industrial revolution, and growing contrast from the Romantic and Realist movements. The modernist movement was radical and rebellious which led to a certain writing style involving inner self and consciousness, irony, and despair seen in most works of literature during that time, for example, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"; "Trifles", and "Barn Burning".

The Impact of the War on the Modernism Movement

Inner self and consciousness were important during modernism because feelings were closed off due to the horrific war, and people needed to get in touch in with themselves again.In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place", the older waiter constantly talks to himself about understanding the deaf, old man's mindset about nothing and how clean, well-lighted places are the opposite of nothing and a mental fog, they are clarity and something (Hemingway 178,179). In "Trifles", Mrs.Peters and Mrs. Hale are always thinking to themselves about what could have happened and what did happen in John Wright's farmhouse. It is also revealed that Mrs. Hale has a guilty conscience because she believes that she could have helped Mrs. Wright be the Minnie, she wanted to be which result in Mr. Wright still being alive(Glaspell 1211). In "Barn Burning", Sarty always thinks to himself about what he'll think in the future and dreaming of being his own individual person and not a puppet for his father (Faulkner 164,166,174). Bringing all these emotions and feelings gave literature more relatability and made it easier to connect to, especially during this hard time in history during and after the wars. All three stories have characters showing their true emotions and what they believe and think to themselves about.

"Now if you're a modernist poet and therefore given to irony (notice that I've not yet alluded to modernism without having to recourse to irony?)...Many modern and postmodern texts are essentially ironic"(73,47) which highlights that most works had irony in one way or another because of the want for authors to distance themselves from realism and create a more drama filled, interesting story. . In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" irony is revealed when the older waiter speaks to the audience and the other waiter because it is said that clarity & light are found in a clean, well-lighted place but the story takes place during the night when it is dark and most of the day's activities are over and yet you are supposed to find something in the nothing (Hemingway 176,177). In "Trifles" the men, (the county attorney, the sheriff, Hale) do not give much thought to the women's (Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Hale) investigation when they probably know better than the men where Minnie would spend her time the most and what she would do since Minnie is a woman and in the end they figured out what really happened while the men in law enforcement and farmer were still confused and searching for what could have happened when all the evidence just walked out the door because of a sexist mindset during that time. Not only that but also the most ironic of all was that the trifles, like quilting or knotting, were what could incriminate Minnie since the rope that killed her husband was knotted just like the way she sewed everything. In "Barn Burning", Sarty is ironic when he cries and tells his dad to not get the twenty bushels which is indirectly telling his father to burn down the barn, but later he starts hoping that after he turns in all twenty bushels, so it will finally be the end of the vicious cycle of burning barns and moving to a new place to live. The irony in all these stories brings out the main ideas in all of them with all different types of irony: verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.

The Core Idea in the Modernism Literature

Since World War I, was a big cause to the modernist movement, all three stories have a recurring theme of despair and sadness. In "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" it states, "Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said. "Why?" "He was in despair." "What about?" "Nothing"(Hemingway 176). In "Trifles", Minnie was in despair about not being allowed to sing and the bird symbolized her love for singing, so her despair led to the murder of her husband which led to even more despair(Glaspell 1209,1210). In "Barn Burning", Sarty is in despair about his lack of independence from his father and ability to make his own decision to not burn barns or be involved in anything criminal (Faulkner 164). As stated by Farley, "Modernist novels also reflect a frank awareness of societal ills and of man's capacity for cruelty". Deep sadness is shared in all three stories: sadness about nothingness, sadness about an inability to do what she loves, and sadness about wanting independence. It all adds to the tone of the stories and gives insight into how people felt during this movement.

All in all, streams of consciousness, irony, and depression make up "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place", "Trifles", and "Barn Burning" in different ways that yet still feel the same. Modernist literature has many characteristics that come together to create a cohesive movement. These themes and characteristics started an era of new writing that brought out the truth about what was going on mentally and emotionally with people and when writing finally became more relatable to the average American.


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