The outline of the period — страница 2

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appalling costs of the struggle—the aftermath of the conflict was shattering. Nothing, it seemed, had been gained. The war had been a fraud; the suffering and the dying had been in vain. Ernest Hemingway, one of the most celebrated (and most commercially successful) of the new breed of writers, expressed the generation's contempt for the war in his novel A Farewell to Arms (1929). Its hero, an American officer fighting in Europe, decides that there is no justification for his participation in the conflict and deserts the army with a nurse with whom he has fallen in love. Hemingway made it clear that he was to be admired for doing so. At least equally dispiriting was the character of the nation these young intellectuals found on their return home at war's end. It was, they

believed, a society utterly lacking in vision or idealism, obsessed with materialism, steeped in outmoded, priggish morality. Worst of all, it was one in which the individual had lost the ability to control his or her own fate. It was a sleek, new, industrialized and professionalized world that was organized in a dehumanizing way. Intellectuals of the 1920s turned their backs on the traditional goals of their parents. They claimed to reject the "success ethic" that they believed dominated American life (even though many of them hoped for—and a few achieved—commercial and critical success on their own terms). F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), established him as a spokesman for his generation, ridiculed the American obsession with

material success in The Great Gatsby (1925), The novel's hero, Jay Gatsby, spends his life accumulating wealth and social prestige in order to win the woman he loves. The world to which he has aspired, however, turns out to be one of pretension, fraud, and cruelty, and Gatsby is ultimately destroyed by it. Fitzgerald and his intellectual contemporaries claimed to want nothing to do with conventional American society (although Fitzgerald himself seemed at the same time desperately to crave acceptance by it). They chose, instead, to search elsewhere for fulfillment. Their quest took them in several different directions, often at the same time. Many Lost Generation intellectuals left America to live in France, making Paris for a time a center of American artistic life. Some adopted

hedonistic life styles, indulging in conspicuous debauchery: drinking, drugs, casual sex, wild parties, and a generally flamboyant way of life. (The publicity they received helped set the tone for other less alienated members of their generation, who began to imitate this uninhibited pursuit of pleasure.) Many intellectuals resorted to an outspoken self-absorption, openly repudiating any responsibility for anyone but themselves. For most of these young men and women, however, the only real refuge from the travails of modern society was art—not art for any social purpose, but art for its own sake. Only art, they argued, could allow them full individual expression; only the act of creation could offer them fulfillment. The result of this quest for fulfillment through art was not,

for the most part, personal satisfaction for the writers and artists involved. They remained throughout the 1920s a restless, usually unhappy generation, searching in vain for contentment. They did, however, produce a body of work that made the decade one of the great eras of American art. Most notable were the writers: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lewis, as well as others such as Thomas Wolfe, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Eugene O'Neill—the first great American playwright and the only one ever to win a Nobel Prize. T. S. Eliot, a native of Boston who spent most of his adult life in England, led a generation of poets in breaking with the romanticism of the nineteenth century. His epic work The Waste Land (1922) brought to poetry much of the harsh tone of despair

that was invading other areas of literature. The writers of the 1920s were notable not only for the effectiveness of their critiques but for their success in pioneering new literary styles and techniques. Some incorporated Freudian psychology into their work, using literature to explore the workings of the psyche as well as the external actions of characters. Others produced innovations in form, structure, and dialogue: Ernest Hemingway, with his spare, clean prose; Sinclair Lewis, with his biting satire; John Dos Passos, with his use of the techniques of journalism as well as of literature. The literature of the 1920s was escapist; but it was also intensely creative, even revolutionary. The term “Lost Generation” was coined by Gertrude Stein to refer to a group of American