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The Modernist Movement In The History Of British Literature

1781 words - 8 pages

“Suicide Solution”
            As a direct result of an artistic rebellion against the edicts of the Romantic Era, the aristocratic hypocrisy of the Victorian Age, and of the horrors of both World War I and World War II, the Modernist movement in the arts was inevitable. Roughly beginning at the close of the 19th century through as late as 1965, Modernism came to the forefront in literature (Rahn).  Defined by the technological changes in the social, political and cultural climate brought about by the aforementioned wars, the discoveries of the Industrial Age, and new schools of psychological theories, Modernism is characterized by themes concerning alienation and disconnection and a loss of the traditional values of its predecessor. Literature of Modernism shifted focus from religious ideologies and social manners to that of science and technology (“British Literary History Chart”).  This shift allowed and even challenged writers to entertain ideas in their individual works to consider things once considered politically incorrect, such as, themes centered on death that ultimately leads to suicide, an unthinkable topic, not to mention a religious taboo in the previous age (Rahn).  Both Henrick Ibsen’s play, Hedda Gabler, and Franz Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis, fit into the Modernism time period and schema of literature. Surprisingly, however, because its first publication date is 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can also be categorized as a work of Modernism due to its scientific focus and both Victor and the creature’s sense of disconnection and alienation from their surrounding world.  The delineating characteristics of Modernism are evident in these works and although brought about by differing circumstances, self-inflicted death seems to be the only solution for three main characters of these respective pieces of literature.
            In Ibsen’s play, Hedda Gabler, which was actually written during the Realist movement in literature, Hedda, the protagonist and the master manipulator, demonstrates the Modernism emphasis on control of the individual’s immediate world.  According to The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Ibsen revives and masters drama during the Realist age, creating for his audience an understanding of “…the subjective experience and the objective conditions of modern life” (851).  However, his true masterpiece comes later in his career and deliberately exhibits the mantras of Modernism which culminates in his production of Hedda Gabler in which the audience, as stated by The Norton Anthology of World Literature, “…is no longer directed towards social deceptions and pretense…”,  (852) which characterizes Realism, but rather is plunged into the world of the “…bourgeois characters themselves, presenting them in all their complexity, with hidden yearnings and fantasies that take them outside of the constricted worlds in which they live” (852).  Hedda’s desire to control her world by controlling everyone in it is...

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