The power that literature holds is within its truth as it records the human experience from the unedited perspective of an individual. The works of art that are created during the course of human history gives the audience a more personal connection and understanding of the experiences the world was enduring at that time. Throughout the evolution of literature, one can observe the change stylistic behaviors of authors during specific time periods.
Literary movements are defined by a group of authors who share a similar impetus for writing and use of literary techniques.
For example, author’s and pieces of literature who belong to the American Romanticism movement commonly share literary techniques such as: the reflection on nature’s beauty as a path to spiritual and moral development, the value placed on emotions and intuition over logic and reason, transcendentalism, and the placement of faith in inner experiences and the power of the imagination.
Famous American Romanticist poet, Emily Dickinson, exemplifies these literary techniques within her poem, “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”.
Within the first stanza, Dickinson writes, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church -/ I keep it, staying at Home -/ With a Bobolink for a Chorister -/ And an Orchard, for a Dome” (Dickinson 1). Here, the reader can observe the authors emphasize on natures spirituality as the orchard acts as a worshiping place and the bobolink as her choir. The distinction made between finding religion within nature and transcendentalist concepts is what defines Emily Dickinson as an American Romanticist.
The Modernist movement consisted of a rejection of previous writing motifs and instead re-evaluated assumptions rooted from philosophical, scientific, political, and ideological shifts occurring at the time, polarizing the subjects seen in previous periods. In analyzing Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, one can clearly observe his experimentation with language and technique as key characteristics of the Modernist movement. Hemingway’s minimalist writing style and use of dialogue is a distinguishable play on tradition that notably polarizes his writing approach from the 19th century. Although his sentences are simplistic they do not lack depth. Within those simple sentences, Hemingway boiled down the scene into its most bare self, which allows the reader to further analyze the subtext and come up with conclusions on their own.
Hemingway’s break from tradition in deconstructing his sentences provokes a deeper thinking that is needed to fully grasp the story on its nethermost level. The subtle layers of paramount details that are woven within the dialogue sets up almost the entirety of the plot. When the American is speaking to Jig,”‘I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.'” (Hemingway 2), he cleverly reveals to readers the topic of the argument (an abortion), through this minimalistic and groundbreaking technique. By relying almost solely on seemingly simplistic dialogue, Hemingway creates a deep familiarity with the text and allows the readers to think for themselves. His play on tradition and employment of new techniques and language within the story is what clearly defines this piece as a prime example of the Modernist movement.
One must mention the masterful play, Hamlet, when discussing literature as it has a direct influence on numerous modern narratives. This work of art embodies the foundation of literature as it exemplifies key attributes of writing that is still seen in modern ages. Shakespeare’s emphasize on human existence and its capacity forms the modern idea of what defines a human, as the characters of the play confront timeless existential issues that are still pondered till this day. Hamlet deals with universal human concerns of love, loyalty, betrayal, morality, and trust. The play explores these themes through multiple character relationships.
One can note that Hamlet battles with feelings of disparity and contemplates whether it is wiser to confront one’s troubles or to surrender to the unknown. Hamlet’s relationship with his mother deals with many of these aforementioned themes, as her union with Hamlet’s uncle leaves the prince hot to the touch. “She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good: But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue” (Hamlet. Act 1, Scene 2. 15). Hamlet’s reaction to his mother betraying her late husband by her marriage to King Hamlet’s brother, emphasizes the common motifs of love, loyalty, betrayal, morality, and trust seen throughout the play and eventually, throughout all works of literature created thereafter.
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