Lost Generation

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The term "Lost Generation" refers to a group of American expatriate writers who settled in Paris after World War I ended. They are a group of male and female poets and writers who have relocated to Europe. The majority of the writers moved from the United States to Europe, where they settled permanently. Many of the writers left the United States because they felt that the effects of World War I had damaged their homes and lives beyond repair. Many of these foreign writers had served in the First World War. Some of the authors and writers that remained in Paris participated in the unprecedented clash of civilization where other works as reporters on the humanitarian and political upheavals. Among the many writers was Ernest Hemingway who worked for the Toronto Star as foreign correspondents. Other radical famous writers of the lost generation include Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald, and T. S. Eliot. Additionally, there were Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, Anais Nin, and Henry Miller who also published controversial works about Paris, just like many other cities in Europe was devastated by World War I. According to (Nese 1), the First World War was a highly mechanized conflict that reflected the dark, disturbing underside of technological innovations. The war lasted for four years and a total number of military casualties was more than 9,700,000 while the total number of civilian causalities was more than 8,800,000 (Nese 17). Virtually, the World War I wiped out a huge number of youths and adversely affected millions of people. Despite adverse effects of the World War I, Paris steadfastly clung to the reputation of bohemian culture. Importantly, Paris remained one of the most exciting sophisticated cities in the 1920s (Green n.p). Paris was famous for flamboyant personalities, avant-garde, artistic inspiration and philosophical intrigues. There were radical developments in Paris that were influenced by Diaghilev and Picasso and Modigliani and others. The Parisian culture was more permissive and allowed for the development of more codes of conduct.

The idea of innovation was vibrant and inspiring that the American expatriates which forms the lost generation flung up. Seemingly, it is odd to refer to the group of bright American authors appeared international state as a lost generation. As a matter of fact, the phrase was coined from a conversation between Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein where Gertrude said: “you are all a lost generation (Leeworthy 4).” Gertrude Stein was a modern American writer who left the United States and made Paris her permanent home in 1903 (Leeworthy 4). The “lost generation” referred to a lack of purpose or self-drive of the youth between 20 and 30 years as they were disillusioned during the World War I. The youth had seen huge scale pointless deaths and thus had lost faith in traditional values such as masculinity, patriotism, and courage. Some of the veterans lost focus, reckless and aimed at amassing material wealth. They lacked the ability to believe in abstract ideas. Undoubtedly, Ernest Hemingway later used the phrase in his book The sun also rises. Ernest Depicts the lost generation as one that was affected greatly by the experiences of war and thus was wounded. He characterized them by uncompromising creativity, hedonism and doomed youth (Green n.p).

The influence of the lost generation and their outburst creativity was supported by an explosion of small-scale entrepreneurs in creative arts. Most of their work was published by small presses that were also owned by expatriates like Obelisk Press, Plain edition, Three Mountains Press, Black Sun Press, Contact Editions and Shakespeare & Company. Before the emergence of lost generations, short stories were not considered profitable; however, the writers were able to write stories that contributed to literary works as well as make them earn money (Werbner, 317).

The devastated veterans returned to a country that readily forgot about the war as well as the soldiers that participated in it. The veteran’s inability to adjust to the new world led to the creation of an environment conducive to literature. Authors constituting the lost generation wrote rather pessimistic pieces due to the influence of the hardships they endured in their lives. Also, the 1920s was characterized by the Jazz age that was related to a more modern style of music that was energetic. The Jazz age was also related to greater economic performance. The feelings portrayed by the Jazz age were unreal according to the lost generation as they were done by people to escape realities of post-World War I effects.

The authors constituting the lost generation had felt that there was no hope for the world after the WWI. There were so much death and destruction in the World War I that led to the loss of hope and a feeling that there is nothing good in the world. As a result, the entire group of lost generation constituted of young adults that lost their lives and were harmed physically and mentally by the First World War. The strong movement; the jazz age was facilitated by desires to escape the devastating impacts of the World War I. The members of lost generation displayed their realities through texts as a means of countering all that was lost in the World War I.

Ernest Hemingway is considered the figurehead and leader of the lost generation movement. Ernest’s writing shows the dark side of a world with no beauty but terrible occurrences. He expressed his feelings of depression and lost hope in his writing “the Sun also Rises” of 1928. Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance medic for the soldiers in Italy during the WWI and was in fact injured (Green n.p). Therefore, he experienced the war horrors. Evidently, the lost generation motivated his writing. Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris and become part of the expatriate community after marrying his first wife. He was mentored by Gertrude and made it to successfully write about the events in the different time. Another significant member of the lost generation; F Scott Fitzgerald was the second Lieutenant in time of war. However, he did not serve mission abroad (Green n.p). His visits to and back from Europe triggered his writing as he observed the post-war culture which was different from the society’s moral culture before the war. As such, Fitzgerald becomes part of the lost generation that was led by Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. To Fitzgerald, life had become aimless characterized by excess partying and money.

The lost generation constitutes youth whose dreams were destroyed by the First World War. The group of a youth spent much of the post-war life partying and drinking as a way of keeping off frustrations and bitterness that resulted from the First World War. Nearly all members of the lost generation had similar characteristics of although they were portrayed in different degrees. They were considered to have a wild lifestyle. Interestingly, the lost generation contributed depth and a wide range of work that influenced the Paris (Werbner, 317). The lost generation become a respected form of literature even though they had bad personality; careless heavy drinkers.

From the book The Sun Also Rises, Jake epitomizes the lost generation as a group that is wounded emotionally and physically by the WWI. As such, he is disillusioned and drinks all through his expatriate life to escape the feelings of devastating experiences. “Everybody’s sick…you ought to drink period if you are sick” (Hemingway 3). Jake cared less about conventional sources of hope like work, religion, friends, and family. Travelling usually perceived as a source of good experiences gave expatriates an opportunity to drink in exotic locales. Ernest portrays the lost generation as irresponsible. For instance, Jake and Cohn rarely intervened into other people’s affairs even when he could. Irresponsibility is also clear when Brett carelessly hurt men and considered her too powerless to stop it. The lost generation had a careless lifestyle that was superficial and characterized by empty attitudes. At work, he superficially socializes with colleagues and admires bull-fighters more. The lavish parties are also evident in parties of James Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s as well as parties that were throne by characters in his tale of the Jazz Age. For many writers, hedonism was the results of shattered ideals that resulted from the war.

Another main theme dominant in the characters of the lost generation is emasculation and impotence. The war called for young men that led to the destruction of chivalric notions. As such the traditional roles of different genders and perception of masculinity were destroyed. Jake of The Sun Also Rises is most likely physically impotent and thus he may never have insatiable Brett. Instead, Brett dominates him. Nevertheless, the two find the bar as the only most comforting place to be. The same case applies to Cohn who is abused by other women for her condition. Even though Jake is not sexually interested in Brett, he threatens homosexuals that try to dance with her. Brett took the man’s responsibility in her relationship with Jake and she manipulated sexual partners by taking charge of their lives. “I watched him walk back to the café…evidently she led him quite a life (Hemingway 2). Additionally, T. S. Eliot wrote “the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Even though the author did not declare the recipient of the poem, he evidently wasn’t able to declare his love.

In conclusion, the World War I had caused greater negative impacts on many individuals and more the American soldiers that participated in it. The individuals were so devastated by the state of life that they felt it could be repaired. Many of the individuals moved to the Europe because they did not find life in their homeland any better. Paris provided an environment where these expatriates could write about their life experiences. Different authors had different experiences; however, all of them had one main theme of breaking away from the past. As such, the tone and mood used in the pieces of writing had changed from hopeful love stories to grounded Victorian ideals.

Works Cited

Green, Nancy L. "(Neither) Expatriates (n) or Immigrants? The American Colony in Paris, 1880-1940." Transatlantica. Revue d'études américaines. American Studies Journal 1 (2014).

Hemingway, Ernest. The sun also rises. Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Leeworthy, Daryl. "Playing up to Precarity; Or, the Lost Generation." The International Journal of the History of Sport(2017): 1-5.

Nese F. DeBruyne. “American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics.” Congressional Research Service. 2017.

Werbner, Pnina. "Cosmopolitanism: Cosmopolitan Cities and the Dialectics of Living Together with Difference." A Companion to Urban Anthropology(2014): 306-326.

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