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Ernest Hemingway's Lost Generation Essay

825 words - 3 pages

Hemingway's Lost Generation

      Before World War I and the Great Depression, the American dream consisted of the inherent optimism about the future, and a faith in individualism. However, Americans became skeptical of these beliefs and traditions. The country lost its innocence with the war, turning idealism to cynicism resulting in the questioning of the authority and tradition which had seemed to be the American bedrock (Anderson 519). The suffering of millions of Americans brought by the decade of economic depression also changed American's outlook (Phillips 213). Furthermore, traditional beliefs were bombarded by powerful new philosophies and movements such as Marxism and psychoanalysis. An alarming message, "I have seen the future and it works," was sent from Moscow by the American writer John Reed (Anderson 521). These disillusioned expatriate American writers, residing, primarily in Paris during the 1920s and '30s, are known as the "Lost Generation"(Phillips 213). The term was coined by the American writer Gertrude Stein, one of the many "lost" writers, but was borrowed by Hemingway in his novel theSun Also Rises in 1926 (Phillips 213). It was Ernest Hemingway, the most influential of all these post-war writers, who labeled himself and his generation the "Lost Generation."


Hemingway was most famous for his literary style, which affected the American prose fiction for several generations. Like Puritan writers, he reduced the flamboyance of literary language to a minimum. Also, he is well remembered for adding to American fiction the Hemingway hero, which is embraced as a protagonist and a role mode. This hero is a man of action, a man of war, and a tough competitor; he had a code of honor, courage, and endurance. Most importantly, the Hemingway hero is a thoroughly disillusioned, a quality reflection Hemingway's personal outlook. In his novel, A Farewell to Arms, the main character, Frederick Henry, was dynamic and changed into the ideal Hemingway hero by the end of the story. Catherine Barkley, Henry's love, was the ideal Hemingway hero who unconsciously taught Henry the meaning of love and death. A further part of the Hemingway code was the importance of recognizing and snatching up the rare good, rich moments that life offers, before those moments escape. This code is found within A Farewell to Arms through a mutual feeling between the two lovers. "We know the baby was very close now and we could not lose any time together" (Hemingway 311). Hemingway left an impression on American literature that still exists and is still present.


Although Hemingway dominated his generation of writers with his literary style, there are...

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