What Is Modernism In The Great Gatsby

2519 Words11 Pages
Destruction. Chaos. Loss. Exile. Annihilation. What do these things have in common? They are themes that many authors use in modern literature, or modernism. What is modernism? The term is derived from the Latin “modo”, meaning “just now” (Mastin). Used in literature, it was a deliberate philosophical and practical estrangement or divergence from the past, taking form in any various innovative movements and styles. It was a general movement in literature that stressed newness and stylistic innovations to reflect modern life (World Book Encyclopedia 685). The Modernist Period began in the twentieth century and was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with the world (Rahn). Initially, the movement…show more content…
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby was very instrumental in the change from traditionalism to modernism. In a time where people struggled with identity, Fitzgerald wrote of the women's rights movements and the animosity between whites and minorities (Huskey). Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, also seems to find his own identity, as he helps his friend, Jay Gatsby, reestablish his own. Fitzgerald’s work is very obviously a piece of modernism when compared to the theme of fragmentation. The “valley of ashes” (Fitzgerald 27) is a fantastic example of fragmentation. The area between the cities, crumbled, decaying, yet modern. “This is a valley of ashes- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to a rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight.” (Fitzgerald 27). The men are wading into the debris itself, pressing ever onward, moving forward. The writing itself is somewhat disjointed, but it represents reality. The men are already crumbling through the powdery…show more content…
“a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes,” (Fitzgerald 73). In this time period, for three African-Americans to have a white chauffeur is almost unheard of, against all societal norms. The whites are the wealthy, and the African-Americans are typically their servants, and not paid very much. Nick remarks to himself, “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge; anything at all…” (Fitzgerald 73). And it is true. In that time period, if a person worked hard enough and tried to get ahead, chances were, they could! Times were changing, society was advancing, opportunities were
Open Document