Modernist Literature Essay

2369 Words 10 Pages
Modernism emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, following World War I and flowing through the “roaring twenties.” Materialism, crime, depression, and change filled this era. Reflecting the revolutionary time period, modernism itself was a revolution of style. Musicians, artists, and writers broke away from traditional, conventional techniques to create new, rebellious art. Modernism, in other words, was a change in how artists represented the world in their works. Passionate, sporadic jazz music—referred to as “jungle music”—danced through the music scene. Painters such as Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky stroked over the paintings of impressionist, representationalist artists, such as Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. …show more content…
Before artists concerned themselves with what they said; now they were most concerned with how they said it. Therefore, content and subject matter became back-up dancers to style. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, for instance, revolves around a few characters that go from café to café drinking and chatting nonchalantly. Another modernist artist, T.S. Eliot, writes a long, beautiful poem entitled “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufruck” about a man contemplating asking a girl out, and William Carlos Williams describes a plain red wheelbarrow in one of his poems. However, the reader does not become frustrated with these simple, somewhat shallow plots because the style triumphs. For example, J. Alfred Prufruck’s silly contemplation of courtship does not seem so silly because Eliot has a charming style. The Great Gatsby is another huge triumph of style over content. Although the novel itself is about tragedy and loss and should leave one feeling very depressed, the reader feels quite the opposite. In other words, Fitzgerald’s writing brings pleasure despite his dismal subject matter.

Not only are the subject matters of modernist works unconventionally simple, but the sentences and word choices are also quite uncomplicated. Modernist writers left behind the showy, overwritten, sentimental writing that was common before them and wrote leaner works. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses short, simple sentences throughout the work. For instance,…