The Lost Generation: S. Fitzgerald, J. Steinbeck And E. Hemingway
There is no exact explanation about what the Lost Generation is because its meaning changed very quickly in a small amount of time. At first, it was referred as “youth culture”, but then the migration to European countries happened. Marc Dolan said that those authors have influenced “far beyond academic and literary circles in popular films, television series, used-clothing shops, and even theme bars”.
In spite of all of those misunderstandings, specialists and students of twentieth-century literature collected the authors that lived between the World War 1 (1914-1918) to the Great Depression (1929) and gathered a group named The Lost Generation. After the war, the world economy surprisingly increased in the 1920s. The financial crisis began approximately around the 4th of September (1929), but the stock market crash was the 29th of October, also known as Black Tuesday. It started in the United States and later it spread to other countries. It was devastating for everyone around the world.
The impact that caused the rapid loss of money and power the Americans experienced in the decade of 1920 made the artists of that period of time create a certain type of art. Not only did they captured the years of prosperity in their novels and their artwork, but they also described all those years of financial crisis that happened in the 1930s.
Nowadays, the Lost Generation it is very well known thanks to the type of culture it created. It has become a myth, and there are movies and TV series based on the writers biographies and their novels, just like Marc Dolan said.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: Biography
He was born on the 24th of September 1896 (St Paul). Fitzgerald wrote a short diary narrating some of his memories. In this Ledger he collects occurrences from his first to his seventh birthday and other matters. He also wrote a Thoughtbook.
It was noticeable the fact that he was very fond of books since he was a child. While his best friend wanted to play sports, Fitzgerald was busy going to the Public Library. It had to do with the places he used to live in when he was a kid, which were hotels and temporary apartments. He also lived with his grandmother, and that made him more of an indoor boy. In school he was sometimes rebellious. It is quite surprising, seeing that his interests included reading and learning in general. Nevertheless, the problem was definitely not studying, he was actually very smart and had a good memory.
Moreover, Fitzgerald was not popular between his classmates and used to write short stories while in class about them. His creativity led him to continue writing about everyone who crossed paths with him. He first went to St Paul Academy, then to Newman. It was in Princeton where he gained popularity. Not only did he meet Edmund Wilson and John Bishop there, but he also went out with Ginevra King for a while there. Fitzgerald left Princeton to join the army in 1917.
He met his future wife, Zelda Sayre, in 1918, but, until he got financial stability, she refused to marry him. He then went back to St Paul to rewrite a novel he began to write in Princeton. After his novel This Side of Paradise was published, he married Zelda and they had a child named Scottie. Those were their good years; they became very popular thanks to Scott´s first novel.
As years went by, Fitzgerald started to spend more and more time traveling to Europe (he and his family moved to Paris), but on January 1931 he visited America to attend to his father´s funeral. Fitzgerald’s mother died in 1936. By that time, Zelda was already struggling with her health and it became so bad that she had to spend a generous amount of time in different clinics. His husband had problems with alcoholism and fell in love with Sheila Graham while his wife was recovering.
Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack the 21st of December 1940, in Hollywood.
Fitzgerald started publishing in the school magazine on his second year at the St Paul Academy. The first story he wrote for it was The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage. He used writing as a way to escape from his situation at the schools he went to, where almost no one liked him.
As he was very fond of theatre, he wrote plays, and even songs for a musical that received good critics. But his best work were the novels he wrote. Thanks to This Side of Paradise Fitzgerald was able to make a name of himself. He published in the most prestigious magazines. The sudden fame affected him, and it shows in his next work, The Beautiful and Damned (1922). He was an excellent narrator and wrote many short stories, most of them were complicated by his family and published after his death in 1940.
Novels and short stories. The Great Gatsby
The characters of his compositions resembled real people he knew, even Scott himself appeared in them. Maybe that was a way to escape from reality, because his work reflected his frustrations with life and his feelings in general.
The novel that has made him go down in history was The Great Gatsby (1925). It was all about idealism and decadence. The main character Jay Gatsby is a mysterious man, known for his parties. He is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, a woman that has an aristocratic background. Their affair ends up badly. No one attended Gatsby’s funeral when he died, and everyone that was around him continued living their lives as if nothing had happened. Fitzgerald wanted to show the excesses of that lifestyle, as it took place in 1922.
His work stands out because how real where his novels and short stories, even if they were all fiction. He captured his real feelings in every character he created, and if you read between the lines you will be able to grasp a little of his own personality and the people that surrounded him.
John Steinbeck: Biography
Steinbeck was born on the 27th of February 1902, in California. He enjoyed reading a lot, one of the books he used to read was the Bible along with Dostoevsky, Flaubert, George Elliot and Thomas Hardy. Steinbeck came from a family that had connections with religion, Jews. His ancestors migrated from Europe to the United States. This explains his tendency to get inspiration from Christianity. He contributed to the school’s newspaper when he was young, along with playing basketball and being the president of his senior class of 1919. The ones who knew him described him as shy, but very smart.
Then, Steinbeck went to Stanford to get an English degree, but he did not finish it. Still, his life was not that bad, as he earned some money thanks to the temporary jobs he took. When the “Big Boom” happened in 1925, he moved to New York and got a new job as a labourer thanks to his brother-in-law. He also was able to get another job as a reporter because of his uncle. He did not like that very much. Steinbeck later said he got involved too much on his work and it was hard for him to do his job because he felt bad when he had been rude in order to pull out information.
He had a rough start as an author because no one wanted to publish his stories at first, but he did not give up. When he moved back to California his writing career had already started. Steinbeck got married for the first time to Carol Henning in 1930. Thanks to his family he could live in a house with his wife when the years of the Depression came. His parents died at that time and it made him grief intensely.
He got divorced in 1942 and married again in 1943 to Gwendolen Conger. A year later his first son, Thom, was born. He lived through World War One and World War Two. Despite of the economic crisis at that time, he was lucky enough to have a well-paid job. He went to numerous journeys all across North America and wrote about it. In 1964, John Steinbeck was given the Medal of Freedom, just another prize to his large collection. He passed away on the 28th of December 1968 in New York City.
John Steinbeck is known for his novels. He got three of them published although they were not a success. It was with Tortilla Flat (1935) when he began gaining popularity. He started working in the film industry when Of Mice and Men (1937) got a movie adaptation. That novella had been already taken to the stage as a play.
His most famous work is undeniably The Grapes of Wrath (1940). It won a Pulitzer Prize, which was a big deal, and it got a film adaptation too. He also wrote The Pearl (1947) and East of Eden (1952). In 1962 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Novels. The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of a poor family that is in a hopeless situation, exploited because of the economy changes that are happening at that time. This is not the first book of Steinbeck that talks about poverty. It has to do with the period he lived in, with the world wars and the Depression. But the Grapes of Wrath in particular, showed what life is being extremely poor and when no one can help you. Very much different from The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald because they were situated in different periods of time.
This was not the only time Steinbeck wrote about the poor going through hard times. Of Mice and Men, The Pearl and East of Eden all talk about poverty. In East of Eden, the plot is all about religion and it represents stories from the Old Testament. It was adapted to cinemas too in 1955.
Ernest Hemingway. Biography
Hemingway was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, born in Oak Park, Illinois. He served in the Red Cross during World War I and was severely wounded in Italy, he moved to Paris in 1921. Devoted himself writing fiction, he had a strong influence on the 20th century fiction. Hemingway revolutionized American writing with his short, declarative sentences and terse prose. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. He published six short-story, seven novels, and two non-fiction works.
Hemingway was considered part of ‘’The Lost generation ‘’ movement, but not only he was part of it, he was involved in its creation. He also used the term in The Sun Also Rises, which was a significant work of Ernest Hemingway. In order to understand the Hemingway’s work, it is important to have a general context of his life, to do that we are going to focused in some events that may conditioning it.
Like we say it before, he born at 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, but he never wrote about Oak Park. Every summer he traveled with his family to their cottage on Lake Walloon in northern Michigan. This was an opportunity for him, an escape from all his duties that he had in Oak Park. Hemingway ended associating Michigan with a lost paradise. In his work exist this duality between social obligation and nature’s as a form to escape.
He had for sisters, this may be relevant in order to understand the fascination and the need of approval that Hemingway has towards woman. We can observe in works like Cat in the rain and Hills like white Elephants. The sympathy with woman stopped due to his mother, whom it is seen like a monster, when he writes about her. Hemingway’s father taught him to hunt, fish, and camp in the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan as a young boy. These early experiences in nature instilled a passion for outdoor adventure and living in remote or isolated areas. From 1913 until 1917, Hemingway attended Oak Park and River Forest High School. He took part in a large number of sports such as boxing, track and field, water polo, and football. He excelled in English classes.
Adolescence was a difficult time for Hemingway his father had to face a large depression and due to that, he abandoned his children. This situation did not go better and in 1928 he shot himself. In that scenario, Hemingway’s thoughts about what happened may be reflected at several of his stories, in ‘’From Whom the Bell Tolls’’, talks about the inability of the protagonist father’s to not let her woman bully him, leading to the father’s suicide.
He worked as a club reporter for The Kansas City Star six months, when he left high school. Some critics say that his style, such as the use of short sentences or use of a vigorous English, may be conditioned by his time working as a journalist. In 1918 he went volunteering with the Red Cross as an ambulance driver and embarks for Italy. It was for this time when he was wounded, indeed he is reportedly the first American wounded in Italy. He also felt in love with an American nurse, Agnes Von Kurowsky.
He worked at several magazines generally as a freelance like the Toronto Star. A few of his stories were rejected. In 1922 Hemingway moved to Paris. He was determined to have a literary career, and he left the Toronto Star to have all his energies into fiction. He also was very involved with the Spanish war because of his new love, Martha Gellhorn. He accompanied her to Spain and cover the war. He even wrote a novel about the events that were happened From Whom the Bell Tolls. He was fascinated about the Spanish culture and he attended at the festival of St. Fermin multiple times and felt in love with the bullfight.
Hemingway went on safari to Africa, but his life changed radically when he had to deal with the pain and several wounded, caused for two plane crashes that he had in Africa. In 1959, finally he bought a house in Ketchum, Idaho. It was in that same place where he committed suicide in 1961.
In 1926 he published a novel call The Torrents of Spring. It was Hemingway’s first long work. The novel was written with the intention of been a parody of Sherwood Anderson’s Dark Laughter. In the same year he also published The Sun Also Rises. A Farewell to Arms (1929) was about the Italian campaign during the World War I. The inspiration of the title was taken from a poem of the dramatist George Peele.
In 1937 he published To Have and Have Not and in 1940 For Whom The Bell Tolls, work that we commented previously. It is about his time during the Spanish War. His most famous and influential novel was published in 1952 The old Man and the Sea. It was a short novel and thanks to this work, in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Novels. The Sun Also Rises. The old Man and the Sea
We have decided commented this works for his big relevance and their particular style. The Sun Also Rises follows the life of two man, one American and the other English. Both of them travel from Paris to The Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. The inspiration of this novel was a trip made to Spain in 1925. The characters are based on real people, friends very close to Hemingway’s, and some of the situation that happened are based on real experience. Hemingway explores themes such as love and death, the power of nature and the concept of masculinity. The Old Man and The Sea tells the story of a skilled fisherman call Santiago and a big marlin. Basically, is about the battle between them, but it is so much deeper than that. In order to understand this, it is important explain the iceberg theory. The iceberg theory is a writing technique that Hemingway use in his novels. He gave a definition is his non-fiction work Death in the Afternoon. He makes a simile between his writing style and an iceberg. Despite of the elements of the story can be seen as simple or have a minimalistic style, he thought the deeper meaning of it should shine through implicitly
The narrative of William Faulkner
Faulkner is considered one of the most celebrate writers in American Literature. He won the Nobel Prize. Faulkner besides of writing novels, he also wrote short stories, poetry, essays, and plays. He born in New Albany, Mississippi. He had four brothers and he was the older one.
Faulkner won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for their works A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962). He has several novels rank as the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century or on other similar lists; like Absalom, Absalom! (1936) or As I Lay Dying (1930).
In this case we are not going to focus in his context life, because we are interested in the narrative and style of William Faulkner. In order to understand the complex world of Faulkner, we need to talk about the imaginary county of Yoknapatawpha, the fictional place where he sets their novels and short stories. He filled it with many characters and references that come and go from his novels to complete a particular mythology, a symbolic world that, as García Márquez has recognized was a real inspiration of the ‘’mythical places’’ created by later novelist.
Some critics thinks that he acts as a bridge between Joyce and the novelists of the second half of the century. It stands out for its slow and careful style, where the subordinate clauses are followed, and the chronological linearity is broken to link the present ant the past. In his main novels he displays a catalogue of different narratives voices and viewpoints. In The sound and the fury, we can appreciate four narrators. As I Lay Dying has an interior monologue of more than ten characters. Even in Absalom, Absalom! The reader must reconstruct the story. Like it can be observed, he had an experimental style and he focused on diction and cadence. This particularly style can be put in contrast with the work of Hemingway, we have seen before that it is characterized for been minimalist, but the work of Faulkner is often perceived as highly emotional, complex, cerebral with a variety of characters. He made a lot of use of the ‘’stream of consciousness’’ a narrative mode method.
- Ott, M. (2014). Sea of change: Ernest Hemingway and the gulf stream’s contextual biography. Kent State University Press. (2014). Retrieved October 2019Moddelmog, D., & Del Gizzo, S. (2012). Ernest Hemingway in context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (2012). Retrieved October 2019
- Young, P. (1964). Ernest Hemingway (Rev. ed., University of Minnesota pamphlets on American writers, no. 1) [Rev. ed.]. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (1964). Retrieved October 2019
- Bloom, H. (2011). Ernest Hemingway’s the sun also rises. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism.
- Baker, C. (1972). Hemingway, the writer as artist. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
- Parini, J. (2004). One matchless time: A life of William Faulkner. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
- O’Connor, W. (1964). William Faulkner (University of Minnesota pamphlets on American writers, no. 3). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (1964). Retrieved October, 2019
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