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Modernism

1914-1945

Time Period
Involvement

in WWI was brief 1917-1918 but horrors of war stuck with Americans. Soldiers could not easily return to their roots. After experiencing the world, they wanted a modern urban life. Farm jobs cut because machines were doing the work of laborers. Farmers becoming poorer. Crop prices low.

Time Period
Businesses

doing well. Middle class prospering. In 1920s college enrollment doubled. With wealth and prosperity, Americans bought the ultimate status symbol the automobile.

Roaring Twenties
Modern

entertainment popular. People went to movies once a week. Prohibition (18th Amendment) banned alcohol but speakeasies and nightclubs grew profitable by providing illegal alcohol. Breaking the law became commonplace and wild jazz music, dancing, and daring new modes of dress were popular.

Roaring Twenties-Women
Women

wore shorter flapper dresses and cut their hair short. In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Women could now speak boldly and take public roles in society.

Roaring Twenties
Angry

and disillusioned with the savagery of war. Many intellectuals left the country for France (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Pound). Ideas of Freud and Marxism took hold in some areas. Led to a godless world view and broke down traditional values.

Roaring Twenties
Marxist

or Freudian elements are evident in fiction of the time period. Young people in the Roaring Twenties were labeled The Lost Generation for their wild behavior and lack of stable traditional values.

The Partys Over the 1930s


Stock

market crashed in 1929 Many workers lost jobs, factories shut down, banks failed. Farmers couldnt pay debts and lost their farms to the banks. At the peak of the Great Depression 1/3 of Americans were out of work (33% compared to 7.8% today).

Dust Bowl
Midwestern

droughts turned the heartland into a dust bowl. No rain for months caused crops to die. Intense wind storms stripped the fertile rich top layer of soil away in portions of Texas, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

World War II

Dec. 7th, 1941: Japan bombed Pearl Harbor War was declared and American businesses manufactured things for the war effort. Business boomed again and employed previously unemployed people. Robert Oppenheimer quotes a Hindu poem I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds. upon building the first nuclear bomb.

Authors F. Scott Fitzgerald Enlisted in U.S. Army during WWI. Fell in love (1896-1940)

with a rich and beautiful girl, Zelda Sayre who lived in Montgomery, AL. She broke off the engagement because he was poor. After his discharge, he became a writer in NYC to try to gain fame and fortune in order to marry her. Married Zelda at 24 and while he was successful they both couldnt handle it. Blew their money and moved to France but returned 7 years later. Fitzgerald became an alcoholic and Zelda went mentally insane.

Famous Authors Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)


Adventure

seeker: bullfighter, war correspondent, prize fighter. Born in Illinois, spent vacations in MI hunting and fishing. Drove an ambulance in WWI but was wounded and hospitalized for 6 months. Badly injured in plane crash while on safari in Africa.

Hemingway continued

Arguably the most popular American novelist of the century. Simple style rooted in newspaper background makes novels easy to comprehend. Often involved his characters in a dangerous situation to reveal their inner nature. Wrote of war, death, and the lost generation and his characters were tough, cynical, and deeply scarred. Due to illness, family history, and belief he was losing his gift for writing, Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.

Famous Authors William Faulkner (1897-1962)


Raised

MS. Created an imaginative landscape (Yoknapatawpha County) mentioned in numerous novels. Most famous novels The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930) experiment with point of view.

to an old southern family in Oxford,

Famous Authors John Steinbeck (1902-1968)


Received Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. Born and raised in California (Salinas Valley) near San Francisco. Most of his novels take place in and around this area. Best known for The Grapes of Wrath (1939) which deals with the dust bowl and the unfairness of labor practices in the US. Heroes are often working class and underdogs who expose the unfairness of the rich and powerful. After Grapes of Wrath many of his neighbors accused him of being a communist and burned his books.