Lost Generation

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The "Lost Generation" was the generation that came of age during World War I. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway, who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, The Sun Also Rises. In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to Gertrude Stein, who was then his mentor and patron. This generation included artists and writers who came of age during the war such as F. Scott Fitzgerald,[1] T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Djuna Barnes, Glenway Wescott, Waldo Peirce, Isadora Duncan, Abraham Walkowitz, Ezra Pound, Alan Seeger, Henry Miller, Aldous Huxley, Malcolm Cowley, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Erich Maria Remarque and the composers Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith, George Gershwin, and Aaron Copland.

In literature[edit]

Gertrude Stein with Ernest Hemingway's son, Jack Hemingway (nicknamed Bumby) in 1924. Stein is credited with bringing the term "Lost Generation" into use.

In A Moveable Feast, published after Hemingway's and Stein's deaths, Hemingway claims that Stein heard the phrase from a garage owner who serviced Stein's car. When a young mechanic failed to repair the car quickly enough, the garage owner shouted at the boy, "You are all a "génération perdue."[2]:29 Stein, in telling Hemingway the story, added, "That is what you are. That's what you all are ... all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation."[2]:29 [3]

'Lost means not vanished but disoriented, wandering, directionless—a recognition that there was great confusion and aimlessness among the war's survivors in the early post-war years.'[4]

The 1926 publication of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises popularized the term, as Hemingway used it as an epigraph. The novel serves to epitomize the post-war expatriate generation.[5]:302 However, Hemingway himself later wrote to his editor Max Perkins that the "point of the book" was not so much about a generation being lost, but that "the earth abideth forever"; he believed the characters in The Sun Also Rises may have been "battered" but were not lost.[6]:82

In his memoir A Moveable Feast, published after his death, he writes "I tried to balance Miss Stein's quotation from the garage owner with one from Ecclesiastes." A few lines later, recalling the risks and losses of the war, he adds: "I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and egotism and mental laziness versus discipline and I thought 'who is calling who a lost generation?'"[2]:29–30

Literary themes[edit]

The literature figures of the Lost Generation tended to use common themes in their writing. These themes mostly pertained to the writers' experiences in World War I and the years following it. It is said that the work of these writers was autobiographical based on their use of mythologized versions of their lives.[7] One of the themes that commonly appears in the authors' works is decadence and the frivolous lifestyle of the wealthy.[8] Both Hemingway and Fitzgerald touch on this theme throughout their novels, The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby. Another theme that is common for these authors was the death of the American dream, which is exhibited throughout many of their novels.[9] It is most prominent in The Great Gatsby, in which the character Nick Caraway comes to realize the corruption he was surrounded by.

Other uses[edit]

The term is used for the period from the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression, though in the United States it is used for the generation of young people who came of age during and shortly after World War I, alternatively known as the World War I generation. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, well known for their generational theory, define the Lost Generation as the cohorts born from 1883 to 1900, who came of age during World War I and the Roaring Twenties.[10] In Europe, they are mostly known as the "Generation of 1914," for the year World War I began.[11] In France, the country in which many expatriates settled, they were sometimes called the Génération au Feu, the "Generation in Flames".

If one goes by Strauss and Howe's birth years, the last U.S. member of the Lost Generation to live was Susannah Mushatt Jones, who was born July 6, 1899 and died on May 12, 2016. This makes the generation fully ancestral in the United States. An Italian woman, Emma Morano, born on November 29, 1899, is currently believed to be the last living member of this generation.[12]

In Britain the term was originally used for those who died in the war,[13] and often implicitly referred to upper-class casualties who were perceived to have died disproportionately, robbing the country of a future elite.[14] Many felt "that 'the flower of youth' and the 'best of the nation' had been destroyed," for example such notable casualties as the poets Isaac Rosenberg, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen,[15] composer George Butterworth and physicist Henry Moseley.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J. United States History: Modern America. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. Print. Page 238
  2. ^ a b c Hemingway, Ernest (1996). A Movable Feast. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-82499-X. 
  3. ^ Mellow, James R. (1991). Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company, p,273. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-47982-7.
  4. ^ Hynes, Samuel (1990). A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. London: Bodley Head. p. 386. ISBN 0 370 30451 9. 
  5. ^ Mellow, James R. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-37777-3. 
  6. ^ Baker, Carlos (1972). Hemingway, the writer as artist. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01305-5. 
  7. ^ "Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, and the Lost Generation: An Interview with Kirk Curnutt | The Hemingway Project". www.thehemingwayproject.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  8. ^ "Lost Generation | Great Writers Inspire". writersinspire.org. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  9. ^ "American Lost Generation". InterestingArticles.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  10. ^ Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (1991). Generations: The History of Americas Future. 1584 to 2069. New York: William Morrow and Company. pp. 247–260. ISBN 0-688-11912-3. 
  11. ^ Wohl, Robert (1979). The generation of 1914. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-34466-2. 
  12. ^ "Italian woman, 116, seen as last living person born in 1800s". Brietbart. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  13. ^ "The Lost Generation: the myth and the reality". Aftermath – when the boys came home. Retrieved 6 November 2009. 
  14. ^ Winter, J. M. (November 1977). "Britain's 'Lost Generation' of the First World War" (PDF). Population Studies. 31 (3): 449–466. doi:10.2307/2173368. 
  15. ^ "What was the 'lost generation'?". Schools Online World War One. BBC. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

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