Nov 16, 2020 in Literature



Modernism refers to changes in society and literary forms. Modernism is believed to have appeared between 1900 and 1950. In the bid to modernize, the society went through various experiences and transformations some of them being indeed painful. The world experienced various devastating and shocking events such as World War I and II, Great Depression, black Friday, and stock market crash among others. These experiences left many people in the state of disillusionment.


In the literary world, there were various discoveries characterized by the establishment of new ideas and theories that sought to challenge what had been set earlier. Such theories include the famous Darwin theory on religion, Sigmund Freuds theory on the mind and humanity as well as the Karl Marx theory on communism. Mina Loy (Feminist Manifesto") and F. Scott Fitzgerald ("Babylon Revisited") are the examples of modernist writers who were not left behind; their works reflected on disillusionment and confusion that faced people during this period.

"Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in the historical period during modernism. Fitzgerald seeks to depict the nature of life of the people in America during this period. He uses characters such as Charlie and Helen saying that they were a sort of royalty, almost infallible (Fitzgerald, p. 2171). This is because they had money to use. He states that like drunken children, rich Americans ran wild all over the city in the 1920s (Fitzgerald, p. 2166). He also depicts the crash of the stock market to have had a direct impact on his characters who are used to reflect the reality in America. He states that in the mid-1920s, Charlie lived lavishly, giving hundreds of francs to doormen and thousands of francs to orchestras (Fitzgerald, p. 2165). Charlie was drunk most of the time and behaved like a child living like other wealthy Americans in the mid-1920s. However, the unfortunate thing happened. As soon as the stock market crashed in 1929, he became insane, because he could no longer afford his lifestyle. He could not escape from his past. He always remembered the Paris that he once saw, the lunch he had with Honoria, and the drunken meals.

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Charlie would like to shake off his past life such as the broken marriage and extravagant lifestyle. However, some part of him does not allow him to do so. He imitates his past life. For instance, he visits places he used to go and does not cease to talk about the Ritz bar. Similarly, some people in America are not ready to usher in modernism (Fitzgerald, p. 2173). They are unable to accept reality of what was happening. Life has become harder with the crash of the stock market in addition to controversial theories and evolutions being made by scientists and literary writers (Thaddeus, p. 286).

On the other hand, in her Feminist Manifesto, Mina Loy rejects the opinion that women are equal with men. She states that " brave and deny at the outset that pathetic clap-trap war cry, 'Woman is the equal of man.' She is not" (Mina, p. 1983). Essentially, modernism was also characterized by the feminist movement with the first wave ending with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1920) that granted women the right to participate in elections.

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During this period, Mina Loy as a writer was concerned by the womens craving for equality. She argues that the desire for equality is all about power struggle. She believes that in order to acquire that power, women must be ready to desexualize themselves in order to assume the role of power, "woman must destroy in herself the desire to be loved (Mina, p. 1984).This implies that women must not be lovable in order to take the power. Moreover, the male-female relationship must never exist; only then women can gain respect, hence acquire power. However, she appreciates the importance of sex in continuity of humanity. What she is against is the emotional attachment: "...there is nothing impure in sex... The eventual acceptance of this fact will constitute and incalculably wider social regeneration than it is possible for our generation to acquire" (Mina, p. 1981). She argues that females and males have different characters, hence in no way can a woman be like a man.

Feminist proponents find Loys belief that a woman can never be equal to a man annoying as well as interesting. To her, fight for equal rights was a waste of time. This depicts how modernism was filled by confusion and disillusionment; people were not ready to match forward together in agreement. Everyone had his or her own ideas. She says, " brave and deny at the outset that pathetic clap-trap war-cry, 'Woman is the equal of man.' She is not" (Mina, p.1982).

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Before the dawn of modernism, women were required to be totally submissive to men. However, towards the 1900, campaigns for reforms on matters such as violence against women, equal pay and opportunities, sexual violence, and womens suffrage among others were ushered in (Thaddeus, 286). However, they had different priorities. While some were dealing with female genital mutilation, others were fighting for the womens right to vote.

The Feminist Manifesto by Mina Loy and Fitzgeralds "Babylon Revisited" reflect what was actually happening during the modernism period. Just like Loy who believed that equality between men and women was just a dream, there were people who believed that modernism was not a reality. They were not prepared to face it. This is evident with the crash of stock market in 1929 that was a surprise to everyone. Unfortunately, just like Charlie, the majority were not ready to change and accept to live in reality. The two books echo the state of people during this period.


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