The aftermath of World War I provided mankind with a true loss of purpose, shattering the masses’ morality code only to make them lost and afraid. Many of the people who came back from the war lost all sense of themselves due to their lost ideology. From this shattering, the literary movement known as modernism attempts to make sense of the shattered pieces of society’s lost ideology. Some of the figureheads that surmounted this patching up were: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner.
Each of the authors provided an original insight to the problem that was shocked the world, and in each of their respected works, they helped identify the problem in which they saw the death of the ideology and the different ways society attempted to deal with it. Hemingway’s effort at mending this ideal was in the book “The Sun Also Rises” where he identifies the shattering by telling a tale of a man whose inability to have sex was drown in alcohol and repressed through a facade of making light of the situation.
F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, “The Great Gatsby”, introduces this same ideal on a more macro scale, for Gatsby’s extravagant parties presents an attempt at alleviating the loss of purpose. Lastly, Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” presents this ideal by suppressing the sadness of death in the daily monotony of life, pushing all the sadness away in order to forget and live life in ignorance.
These works and their respected authors provide a lens into the loss of purpose that modernism describes as the authors identify the suppression of pain that their main characters subscribe too, only to prove the point that their efforts are meaningless as they will be lost in their pain regardless. In the novel “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, the main character Jake Barnes has a habit of suppressing his deep seeded pain of impotence and the inability to be with the one he loves by laughing at his impotence and drowning his broken heart with alcohol.
Jake tries his hardest to try and just live with the fact that he is impotent and simply can not function on top of his manhood. As an act to try and make light of his impotence he suggests to Brett, “Don’t talk like a fool,’ I said. “Besides, what happened to me is supposed to be funny. I never think about it. ‘ ‘Oh, no. I’ll lay you don’t. ‘ ‘Well, let’s shut up about it. ‘ ‘I laughed about it too, myself, once…. Chaps never know anything, do they? ‘ ‘No,’I said. ‘Nobody ever knows anything. ‘(Hemingway 35).
He is in love with Brett but can not get over the fact that he can not please her sexually, which leads him to try his best to simply suppress his utter sadness to the fact that he can not do anything about it. As a result, the readers can see his obvious displeasure as Brett tries her best to comfort that him on that basis, and he simply tells her to shut up about it. Truly, what he is talking about, really, is his manhood and that innate ability to have sex and “be a man” showing us this immense loss of purpose within himself.
Barnes wants to forget about and make light out of the situation but Hemingway knows this is not an option so he presents the effort as futile as modernism would not allow him to just simply forget about the loss of purpose, but instead it is shown as a sad attempt to suppress it away. Similarly, Jake can not be with the person he loves on that same fact, his impotence and the fact that Brett herself wants to be out and free, fulfilling her sexual desires with other men. Jake, then, stands by watching his only lover be with other men.
Then when Bret comes back to him after her heart is shattered at the loss of her attempt at finding love, she vents to Jake and all he wants to do is drown her words in alcohol to deaden the pain. Brett urges him to not drink and remain by her side sober, “Don’t get drunk, Jake,’ she said. “You don’t have to. ”How do you know? ‘ ‘Don’t,” she said. “You’ll be all right I’m not getting drunk, | said. I’m just drinking a little wine. I like to drink wine. ”Don’t get drunk. ‘ she said.
Jake, don’t get drunk” (Hemingway 250). Jake finds himself stuck within this zone of where he can not please her and they both know they can not be together, but he is still in love with her. His only avenue to cope is to drink the pain down to make it easier for himself to swallow her words. It simply is another action to suppress the loss of purpose down in the bowels of his mind so he then can forget and move on, yet it is obvious that it doesn’t work as it only leads him to be an empty shell.
There is something to be said about Jake’s personal way to deal with this pain inside, and Pamela Boker author of the book “Grief Taboo in American Literature”, similarly, argues, “The loss and disappointment, as well as the endangered masculine identity, that are repressed or packed down into the unconscious of Hemingway’s younger protagonists in In Our Time, are manifested corporeal form in The Sun Also Rises… In addition, drinking, in Hemingway’s novel,.. allows his characters, as Orpen explained, ‘somehow not to ‘feel bad”.
Boker makes the point that he represses his masculine consciousness so that he can then find himself drinking away that same pain. His actions are all an attempt to make himself feel or “somehow not to feel bad”. It is clear here that Jake presents his shattered ideology on to himself but then halfhearted makes an attempt to mend his own wounds. The same modernist ideology that is apparent throughout the other novels here; “The Great Gatsby” has a similar take on the idea of pushing this idea on a more macro scale.
And in this heart wrenching observation of his lover, he looks to drinking alcohol as the therapeutic device to allow himself to suppress the feelings down and away. In the end of the book he “Don’t get drunk, Jake,” she said. “You don’t have to. ” “How do you know? ” “Don’t,” she said. “You’ll be all right. ” “I’m not getting drunk,” I said. “I’m just drinking a little wine. I like to drink wine. “Don’t get drunk,” she said. “Jake, don’t get drunk. ” (250) F.
Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” illustrates the active pursuit of coping with the loss of purpose as the extravagant parties that Jay Gatsby throws, provides the people around him with an avenue to alleviate the shattered ideal of purpose. It is Jay Gatsby’s idea of the extravagant parties, itself, that presents the concept of the suppression of loss due to the time frame this novel is set in. These parties are thrown within the Jazz Age, an age that superseded the tragedy of World War I.
With the extravagant and over the top decorations and food that is presented at this party presents itself as an out cry for suppression because the people who are here are here to escape the loss of purpose that the war had put on to everyone at this time. F. Scott Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s lavish party as this: “At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a christmas tree of gatsby’s enormous garden.
On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvres… In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials… By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five piece affair, but a whole pitiful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums… The bar is in full swing ,a and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter” (Fitzgerald 40).
The amount of times these parties are thrown presents a recurring escape for people, at least twice a month of getting drunk and escaping their purposeless lives to come and live in a fantasy. The enormous celebration of really nothing presents the parties as more of just a waste of money, trying to stuff people full of delicious food and not allowing oneself to sober to face the existential crisis that is life.
The Jazz Age is all about partying and letting loose and Gatsby’s parties are a place for people to allow themselves to just that, but it less of expression of the self but more of a suppression of the reality of life that the World War provided society. Writer Scott Donaldson, the author of the article “Possessions In The Great Gatsby”, offers some insight to the reasons for these parties as he writes, “[Gatsby] throws lavish, drunken parties ‘for the world and its mistress” (188).
Donaldson sees this same idea as he recognizes that Gatsby throws the parties “for the world and its mistress”, or ,in other words, the celebration is for everyone to come and simply forget about the pains that people must live with day in and day out. Donaldson seemingly is arguing to the same point that the its for people to suppress the feelings away, and it is a direct reaction to the macro scale of the loss of purpose that society underwent after the war.
The modernist ideal of finding ways to push away that immense pain is seen similarly in the novel of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”. William Faulkner’s multiperspective novel of “As I Lay Dying” offers an attempt at forgetting this loss of purpose within the daily monotony of life as this is apparent in the beginning journey to bury Addie’s dead body, and when they are preparing the body for the journey, Cash and Dewey Dell are displacing the death of their mother on to monotonous tasks they had to do before.
The death of Cash’s and Dewey Dell’s mother, Addie, presents an action that allows them to not put their mind on the death of their mother and instead putting it on the monotonous errands and tasks that they had to do already, generating an abnormal thought process when dealing with the death of a family member. Vardaman is watching his brother take tools on the wagon so that on the way back he can do some work at someone’s house, and he observes, “Cash is carrying his toolbox. Pa looks at him. I’ll stop at Tull’s on the way back,’ Cash says.
Get on that barn roof. ”It aint respectful,’ pa says. ‘It’s a deliberate flouting of her and of me. ‘ (Faulkner 102). Anse or Pa in this case is being more the voice of society in a way that it really isn’t normal and is very disrespectful to use the journey to bury his mother as a way to get rid of some errands on the way back. Cash is, seemingly, replacing grief for his mother’s death with doing something that he needed to do before hand that is clearly not as important at the time. Therefore, Faulkner is making a comment that when eople are met with loss they tend to forget what is really in front of them and instead attempt to replace that feeling with something that is completely meaningless to the situation at hand. Similarly, Dewey Dell the daughter of Addie and sister of Cash does the same thing. Faulkner write, “Dewey Dell has the package in her hand. She has the basket with our dinner too. ‘what’s that? ‘ pa says. ‘Mrs Tull’s cakes,’Dewey Dell says, getting into the wagon. ‘I’m taking them to town for her. ‘ ‘It aint right,’ pa says. “It’s a faulting of the dead (102).
Again, it is an act of replacement for the grief she feels for her mother’s death and is trying to use that idea of errands to push her sadness away from the conscious mind of hers. Author Liam Butchart writes in his article Death, Mourning, and Human Selfishness that “Cash, through his loving connection with his mother, is able to see the world in a good light. Every individual’s psyche utilizes defense mechanisms; Cash is no exception, but his uses them in a healthy way. Cash’s mind exhibits signs of the libidinal movements that correlate with sublimation and displacement”.
Butchart is presenting the core modernist tenet of the three novels of suppression by displacement or sublimation, meaning that here with Cash he is pushing the grief he has for his mother onto another task in order to forget about the loss that he had just experienced. The defense mechanisms that are found within Cash are only there to make himself feel somewhat better about the whole situation, and expanding this idea back to the rest of the novels this is the exemplary tenet that describes modernism.
To elaborate, the concept of being lost after having a shattered ideology is only trying to be mended with this idea of suppressing it under. Faulkner identifies here with his novel in “As I Lay Dying” with the death of Addie, but when it comes to the rest of the novels, Hemingway presents it in impotence and inability to reach a desire, and Fitzgerald is identifying it within the idea of escape aspect of parties. All of them are presenting a concept of suppressing pain away so that people can just live on, but the authors are trying to say that suppression, displacement, and sublimating simply are not going to work for people.
The authors are identifying the flaws within the logic of suppression within each of their novels, and how that suppression is not, in reality, helping the people or will help anyone any ways. Hemingway presents Jake as a person who seemingly tries to bring himself to cope with the loss of his manhood by making light of it and drinking away his broken heart only to still be left empty in the end. Fitzgerald offers readers a look into the Jazz Age way of dealing with the destruction of ideology on a more macro scale when we see Gatsby’s parties, but it is just a facade for the pain that is underlying within the people’s purposeless lives.
Lastly, Faulkner brings the idea full circle as the true loss of life is then displaced away from the conscious and replaced with something so miniscule in comparison to the situation at hand. All the authors are presenting that idea of displacement as an invalid way of operating away from the loss of purpose. As the audience, we should be able to listen to these great modernist authors and find the displacement that we do within our own lives and perhaps reevaluate the way we find ourselves operating, and, maybe, find a way to just exist without having such destructive habits to ourselves and others.