Definition of Modernism in Fiction

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Definition of Modernism in Fiction

Modernism, in literature, can be seen as a shift in focus to the unassociated introspective reflection of characters in such texts as Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin, Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. This is a revision from the previous focal point of exterior events and places in correlation with the character's reflections. Emphasis is placed on review upon feelings and thoughts, and even conversations with oneself, as opposed to the more directly event-driven reflections in texts of the pre-modernist era.

This is not to say that texts of the modernist era have no events, or that their characters sit at home all day long thinking. Many activities take place in these texts, but the characters tend to spend time reflecting upon basically uncorrelated ideas, and to ponder what they mean for him. For example, in Go Tell it On the Mountain, when his aunt, Florence, comes to church for the first time, John knows, "it was the hand of the Lord that had led her to this place, and his heart grew cold. The Lord was riding on the wind tonight. What might that wind have spoken before the morning came?"(61). John's pondering of the Lord "riding on the wind" seems somewhat unrelated to his aunt coming to church. His premonition that something would happen tonight has nothing to do with the current events.

It can be seen, in the broader definition of modernism provided, that modernism is a response to modernity, keeping "alive an awareness of conflict, upheaval, and destruction". It some modernist texts, including Catcher In The Rye, one can see many internal conflicts and much upheaval, without any certain outside events. For example, when Holden takes his sister, Phoebe, to the park, he watches her on the carousel, and the thoughts he ponders don't appear to have any real connection with what is going on externally. Instead, the audience sees a part of what...
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