A Light In The Darkness: Modernist Writing

1441 words - 6 pages

The modernist period was a time of change. After World War II many people found themselves unhappy, lonely, and depressed. With the groundbreaking influences of Karl Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, many people began to question their own reality. What did it mean to exist? What was life, and what was death? The modernist author reflected this change, and confronted these questions with enthusiasm. Together modernist artists became the representative voice of the people. This voice transcended all forms of art, but was most successful in the written word. Through the experimentation of language and form, the modernist author managed to convey the meaninglessness felt by many, and created a light in the darkness of an uncertain world. Ernest Hemingway's short stories titled "A clean well-lighted Place", and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" are two notable examples of literary art during the modernist period.

Ernest Hemingway's short story titled "A Clean Well-Lighted place" deals with the loneliness, isolation, and depression felt by many during the modernist period. The story takes place in a well lit café, occupied by two waiters (one old, and one young) and an old deaf man. This story is the perfect example of the modernist form because it questions the meaning of life. Joseph Gabriel, in is essay titled "The Logic of Confusion in: Hemingway's "A Clean well Lighted Place", believes that "the dominant visual image of the story is the radical contrast between the minute spot of light represented by the café and the infinite surrounding darkness outside."(Joseph Gabriel, The Logic of Confusion in: Hemingway's "A Clean well Lighted Place", Pg, 541) One can't help but compare the story to the image of moths attracted to a light bulb.

The idea of infinite darkness stemmed from the theories of the famous philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Nietzsche was highly influential during the modernist period and believed that there was no point to life, that God did not exist, and believed that nothing outside our own reflections existed. This theory was highly influential during the modernist period because people could not come to terms with their own existence. The War had taken so many lives, that it seemed unjust for any God to allow such a thing to occur. People could not understand why some died and others did not. It was easier to believe in chaos, and random chance, then to believe in a destined world that would allow so many to be slaughtered at war. At one point in Hemingway's story, the older waiter recites the Lord's Prayer, but replaces every second word with "nada", meaning nothing. "It was all nothing, and man was nothing too." "It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanliness and order." (Ernest Hemingway, "A Clean Well-Lighted Place", pg 300) throughout the story every character faces this fact, except for the young waiter who has not yet seen the darkness shared by the elder waiter and...

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