|The Lost Generation (s)
Are they ever found?
The “Lost Generation” refers to a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris and other parts of Europe from the time period which saw the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression. Significant members included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, Waldo Peirce, and John Dos Passos. The coining of the phrase is traditionally attributed to Gertrude Stein and was then popularized by Ernest Hemingway in the epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises and his memoir A Moveable Feast.
More generally, the term is used for the generation of young people coming of age in the United States during and shortly after World War I. For this reason, the generation is sometimes known as the World War I Generation. The "Lost Generation" was said to be disillusioned by the large number of casualties of the First World War, cynical, disdainful of the notions of morality and propriety of their elders and ambivalent about 19th-century gender ideals. Like most attempts to stereotype entire generations, this over-generalization is true for some individuals of the generation and not true of others. It was somewhat common among people of this group to complain that American artistic culture lacked the sophistication of European work—leading many members to spend large amounts of time in Europe—and/or that all topics worth treating in a literary work had already been covered. This "generation" was also involved with the beginning of jazz music.
Seeking the bohemian lifestyle and rejecting the values of American materialism, a number of intellectuals, poets, artists and writers fled to France in the post World War I years. Paris was the center of it all. After speaking to Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein said, "You are all a lost generation." The term stuck and the mystique surrounding these individuals continues to fascinate us. Full of youthful idealism, these individuals sought the meaning of life, drank excessively, had love affairs and created some of the finest American literature to date.
The Lost Generation writers all gained prominence in 20th century literature. Their innovations challenged assumptions about writing and expression, and paved the way for subsequent generations of writers.
Members of the Lost Generation seemed to:
Exhibit grace under pressure
View life as transitory
Enjoy life’s pleasures (indulgence)
Are Physically/emotionally broken
Have little regard for consequence
Struggle to confront truth
Experience a loss of faith
Are emotionally detached or indifferent
Although Tim O’Brien writes about the Vietnam War, consider how these traits, which were once applied to only World War I veterans, can apply to any war veteran. What do you think?