Modernism and the Great Gatsby

PAGES  8
WORDS  2011

Modernism and the Great Gatsby

To understand modern literature, one must develop a sense of the structured and ordered lifestyle prior to modern culture. Before the era of modernism, lifestyles were systematically organized through standard traditions. When World War I started, Americans felt the impact of modernism at its strongest with men going off to battle and women working in factories. Lifestyles were beginning to divert from family traditions. People started to abandon their traditional values and adapt to the challenges that were altering lifestyles and thus modernism surfaced. Modernism did not have one specific definition, but an array of definitions and interpretations. The modernist authors who were beginning to surface at this time did not adhere to any one specific interpretation of modernism. According to C. Hugh Holman modernism is
A strong and conscious break with traditional forms and techniques of expressionModern implies a historical discontinuity, a sense of alienation, of loss, and of despair. It not only rejects history, but also the society of whose fabrication history is a record. It rejects traditional values and assumptions, and it rejects equally the rhetoric by which they were communicated. It elevates the individual and his inner being over social man, and prefers the unconscious to the self-conscious. (325)
Modernism is an intermingling vision of fantasy and reality caused by daring changes in traditional values of society, economics, and the conception of the individual.
The general tendency of the modernist is to move away from the ordered structure from previous generations by neglecting traditional values emphasized through ceremony and ritual. The nostalgic loss of unity as a civilization and the nostalgia arose from the loss of tradition(Alter 388). With the evolution of modernism, the values thus become inner directed and less in accord with the social structure. The traditional values changed from a prescriptive set of structured rules and order to a more relaxed emphasis on the chosen direction by the individual. The prescriptive order is controlled by society and the individuals behavior must conform to the expectations of the traditional society. Modernism focuses more on diverse choices each person is entitled, thus pulling away from the structured society as a whole and therefore, placing more emphasis on personal choice. These attitudes transformed people socially by breaking away with the traditi...