World War I's Effect on Literature Term Paper

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World War I's effect on literature

This is a paper that outlines the effects of World War I on contemporary literature. It has 5 sources.

The lost generation was a group of people who emerged after World War I. Shocked and torn by the seemingly senseless destruction of the first war these people realized that the values and norms they had been brought up in were wrong. As they lost their past they sought meaning in life and searched for the future. They could not understand how humans wrought such devastation and in trying to understand this they lived a life of opulence as writers and artists began to express themselves through their work. Their work thus focused on their lives or their perception of it and through their depictions emerged the lost world they lived in for their characters searched for meaning even as they strove to live the hand life had dealt them.


War always scars the survivors and alters their world view such that it becomes hard to recognize the reality when the war is over. The inhumane killing, the losses of human life and destruction are such that they are hard to forget and it becomes essential to explain the deaths to oneself in order to accept them.

Though most individuals who experience wars are said to be adversely effected by it, there are few individuals who have lived through war and become better people because of it. This may sound inhumane or even heartless but the fact is the biggest tragedies of our lives are the basis of our character and strength. Surpassing the pain of lie helps create a stronger person. World War I was a fight that caused innumerable deaths and helped create a generation that sought to explain the death and destruction of so many. Thus, emerged a class of writers who searched for their 'self' and sought meaning in life and they did this through their own writings for through the people they penned they thought to redeem themselves.

To mention few of such individuals, are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Hemingway is in fact recognized as the leader of this 'lost generation', a termed coined by Gertrude Stein.

Aside from the three individuals of the lost generation, there are other well-known names like: Sherwood Anderson, Kay Boyle, Hart Crane, Ford Maddox Ford and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Individuals of the lost generation may be described as those individuals who survived the First World War, carrying through their individual experiences that they incorporated in their works. These individuals had indeed lived through a torrid period in which they were brought face-to-face with death as they faced death they realized that there was more to life than just social mannerisms and norms. It was because of this awakening that these individuals sought a deeper meaning in life and were not afraid to experiment with all that was available to them. In their quest for a deeper meaning in life, these individuals of the lost generation drank to their hearts content, indulged in love affairs and most importantly, wrote some of the best literature of the modern world.


Earnest Hemingway's works depict death and violence as two of the common themes used. However, these themes are not ones that are exclusively brutal descriptions of World War 1 field battles. In fact, in Hemingway's work, it must be asserted that never is there a mention of death occurring without a reason. Examples of this are seen in Hemingway's novel 'A Farewell to Arms' in which death takes place as a result of 'human commitment'. Another example of death taking place for a specific reason is witnessed in 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', where people sacrifice their lives for the sake of 'comradeship'.

Similar to the life that Hemingway was exposed to regarding wartime was Scottie Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was young when he enlisted with the U.S. army for the First World War. Expecting to die early in his life, he might have felt unfulfilled, and hence, decided to leave behind him a literary mark by which the world would remember him. Since he was obviously young and had not developed a literary skill that could be commended, his first novel written while at camp 'The Romantic Egotist' did not have the impact that he…

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