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Modernism in the Great Gatesby Essay

1. The Roots of Modernism

the word ‘modern’ is used to refer to contemporan object or subject matters.In the history of art, however, the term ‘modern’ is used to refer to a period dating from roughly the 1860s through the 1970s and describes the style and ideology of art produced during that era.The term ‘modernism’ is also used to refer to the art of the modern period. More specifically, ‘modernism’ can be thought of as referring to the philosophy of modern art. The roots of modernism lie much deeper in history than the middle of the 19th century. For historians, the modern period actually begins in the sixteenth century, initiating what is called the Early Modern Period, which extends up to the 18th century.

The intellectual underpinnings of modernism emerge during the Renaissance period when, through the study of the art, poetry, philosophy, and science of ancient Greece and Rome, humanists revived the notion that man, rather than God, is the measure of all things.In retrospect, we can recognize in Renaissance humanism an expression of that modernist confidence in the potential of humans to shape their own individual destinies and the future of the world. In the 18th century, the Enlightenment saw the intellectual maturation of the humanist belief in “reason” as the primary guiding principle in the affairs of humans.

Through reason, the mind achieved enlightenment, and for the enlightened mind, a whole new and exciting world opened up. The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement for which the most immediate stimulus was the so-called Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th-centuries, when men like Galileo Galilei, through the application of reason to the study of the natural world had made spectacular scientific discoveries in which were revealed various scientific truths. Enlightenment thinking believed that reason allowed access to truth, and knowledge of the truth would give birth to better humankind. The vision that began to take shape in the 18th century was of a new world, a better world. It is in the ideals of the Enlightenment that the roots of Modernism, and the new role of art and the artist, are to be found. Simply put, the overarching goal of Modernism, of modern art, has been the creation of a better society.

2.modernist ideology and principles

From its roots,modernism as a 20th century philosophical and artistic movement portrayed the world of men as harsh,in which life had lost its meaning.Men and women in this context were isolated from each other, struggling to survive alone. individual dreams became futile, superficial and unrealistic.To talk about modernist philosophy is to talk about its principle and its caracteristics.

Roughly speaking,modernists taught that life lost its meaning.Traditional concepts such as religion, patriotism and financial success was no longer valid.This nihilistic attitude ressults from the cahotic situation and the horor of the post world war I , social problems such as povrety , racism and injustice.On the other hand, the advance in new siences such as psychology and technology put an end to the myster of human existence and depicts human life as meaningless without any religious desire .The lack of religion naked human life from rules and moral bihaviour, which results in a world of a moral waste land in which immediate and personal desires took the priority over redemption and moral values.The lost of moral values comes also to suggests the materialistic attitude of modern society and characterises human desires with selfishness in wich even human beings became viewed as commodities.

Related to this context ,as far as literature is concerned , modernists viewed the writer as a denouncer of the 20th society’s corruption.In fact , writers at this period of time were muchly conserned in questionning the established moral values of society and advoquate to them selfs the mission that religion failed to fulfil Ie. awaring , redumting human being . This statements can be illustrated by TS.Eliots The Waste Land in which the poet invites the reader to help him in his redumpting mission of the 20th century society.By the way,writings such as The Waste Land not only stands to dininciate corruption,but also call for positive changes in the life of human beings.

While Eliot’s The Waste Land stands merely for a religious representation of society at that time , other written arts inclined their intention much more on the social interaction between individuals and their personal consideration towards the others,all this related to a corrupted false consiousness or idelogy.This would be the keys of The Great Gatesby by scott fejeral that i will try to explore and portraits its modernists charecteristics in the two next parts of this researsh.

3.Modernists characteristics in The great gatesby

The charecteristics of a work of art can be either related to the content or to the form .We shall therefore explore the two different components of the novel to get a complete and objective results.in this perspective,Dealing with the context means to deal with the ideology of the writer within the novel and its belonging to the Mdernist field.Dealing with the the form means to take into consideration the technique of writing used in the novel and to see to what extent they are of a modernist origin.

3.1 modernism in the content of The Great Gatesby

As we have seen previously,Modern art comes to denounce the dehumanisation of society in the 20th century.this statement is clearely relevant troughout the different characters and the themes of the novel.

In the novel,People are murdered, the main character Gatesby is involved in illegal activities,the overall atmosphere of the novel is gloomy. The novel also shows the insignificance of ‘man’ by allowing the main character to be killed without any care or remorse from the rest of the characters . The novel also deals with brutality and ingsignificance of human life. this can be seen when Daisy hits Myrtle but doesn’t stop the car.

3.1.1 commodification and materialism

Insignificance and commodification of men is shown through wealth . Gatsby purshases new money only to impress Daisy in order to win her back.Within this contect,dasy is seen as an object that could be selled or bought by means of wealth.On the other hand, Dasy’s acceptence of the perles makes her like Gatesby.In other words , just like she is seen as a commodity by the other characters , she as well commodifies the others for her own benefits.Generally speaking, from a modernist perspective , this comes to reflect the selfishnes of humans in the 20th century.More accuratelly, from a marxist perspective,this come to illustrate the negative influence of modern capitalist system over the ideolofy of human beings.

As far as the theme of capitalism is concerned , Nick introduces the novel describing things that are manufactured, advertised and consumed which is a clear depiction of the new economy (the modern capitalism).At the same time, these are in many cases also metaphors of the new materialistic mental landscapes of the ‘Jazz Age’, which the novel seeks to document. This need for the new was strong in the character of Myrtle Wilson who had her modern apartment as an attempt to turn herself into a ‘Daisy’ like modern society lady by immitating what she had read in the “town tattle” (p29) and gossip novels. This is reflected in her party mannerisms , her behaviour, her pet dog, her manufactured furniture and rugs with tapestry of “Versailles” (p31).

it seems that all the characters in the novel are in need to fufil a desire.Desires in the novel are either materialistic or they commodifies persons which portraits the inhumanity of the 20th century.

3.1.2 honesty and betrayal

The novel investigates the theme of honesty in a new modern way which is lacking in the characters of The Great Gatsby ,including Jordan who cheats at golf.Within this context , New York City comes to be depicted as a symbol of what America has become in the 1920’s, a place where money is made throught bootleging and corruption. Within this context,even if Gatesby dream depicts a hope for a better life , which is a principle of a modernist nature, the way in which Gatesby chooses to fulfil his dream is a corrupted one.This point comes to suggests the end of the American dream.From a more global perception , it calls for the end of human dreams , which is the way in which modernists depicts 20th century’s life.


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