How did Modernism affect American culture?

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In her essay entitled "Modern Fiction," Virginia Woolf declares that the form of fiction that has been in style "more often misses than secures the thing we seek."

Ms. Woolf further contends that the "proper stuff of fiction" is not what custom has demanded. Instead, the Modernist writers attempted to come closer to real life and to preserve what truly interested them, even if doing so caused them to cast away conventions. Writers such as James Joyce, Woolf adds, come closest to representing the modern writer. He uses a stream-of-consciousness style and his protagonists feel incoherence, disillusionment, and uncertainty.

In the US, where for the first time its citizens experienced two wars on grand scales, optimism was lost and fragmentation was felt. As a result, many people began to feel unsure about the future and experienced a certain disillusionment. Like Krebs in Ernest Hemingway's short story "Soldier's Home," many no longer trusted the ideas and values of the world that had wrought such destruction and death.

The Modernist writers of America experimented with many new approaches and techniques. Above all, the Modernists shared the desire to capture the essence of modern life in the content and form of their work. For instance, in order to convey the fragmentation of the modern world that no longer seemed unified under any purpose, the Modernists rejected the traditional standards of literature. Often they would omit the exposition of a story or other traditional parts, such as resolutions to conflicts. In poetry the traditional forms were discarded for free verse. Themes were much more subtle than in traditional works, forcing readers to draw their own conclusions.

Oscar Wilde once said, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life," and he may have unknowingly predicted what would happen in the 1920s. For as people began to become skeptical of traditional notions of art, they also began to reject traditional notions of morality, truth,...

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