How did major world events contribute to all Modern writers sharing a sense of alienation, isolation, and hopelessness (despite the differences in the ways their individual works treated these themes)? What core truth(s) seem to emerge for these authors based on major world events?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Normally we tend to think of World War I as having been the catalyst for these factors named in your question—alienation, hopelessness, and so on—in modernist literature and the arts overall. It is true that Europe and America were shocked by the scale of killing that took place from 1914 to 1918. Seen in the context of the technological advances that had occurred steadily over the previous hundred years, which had portended a positive future for humanity, the Great War seemed a reversal, a plunge back into savagery. If anything, technology—the use of poison gas and the airplane in warfare, for instance—had become a destructive force and had made mass-killing even easier than it had been before.

However, the modernist movements in all the arts had arguably begun before the war. Works that were emblematic of a deep sense of pessimism, such as Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," were both written before 1914 (though "Prufrock" was...

(The entire section contains 687 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team