Examine how World War I impacted American writers.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The wave of patriotism and support of the Allied cause was a part of the American literary canon that emerged during and out of World War I.  Writers like Edith Wharton sought to evoke a spirit of patriotic devotion to the Allied cause.  In works such as The Marne (1918) and A Son at the Front (1923), war is seen as a morality exercise.  Distinct notions of good and pure innocence is set against that which is evil.  In these works, the war is mythologized, impacting how American writers were impacted by the war.

At the same time, part of the war's impact on American writers was seen in disillusionment and rejection of the war's perceived good.  Writers like Hemingway articulated the futility in the war and the disillusionment it caused in those who survived.  The "botched civilization" that Pound saw as intrinsic to World War I cast a large impact on his writing in the wake of the war. At the same time, one can see the same emphasis of the futility of war and the horrific suffering that soldiers endure as a part of it. The works of Trumbo, Eliot, and Dos Passos emphasize this aspect of the war.  In these writers, World War I impacted American literary traditions through its revelation of the futile and the intense suffering that is part of being in the world.