Existentialism in literature is a movement or tendency that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. While Existentialism was never an organized literary movement, the tenets of this philosophy have influenced many diverse writers around the world and readers can detect existential elements in their fiction. Americans writers like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck reveal existential elements in their writing.
Perhaps the most prominent theme in existentialist writing is that of choice. Humanity's primary distinction, in the view of most existentialists, is the freedom to choose. Because we are free to choose our own paths, existentialists have argued, we must accept the risk and responsibility of following our commitments wherever they lead. American writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson often wrote about these concepts. Existentialism is not dark. It is not depressing. Existentialism is about life. Existentialists believe in living—and in fighting for life. The politics of existentialist writers around the world varies widely, but each seeks the most individual freedom for people within a society. Despite encompassing this wide range of philosophical, religious, and political ideologies, the underlying concepts of existentialism are constant: ▪ Mankind has free will
▪ Life is a series of choices
▪ Few decisions are without any negative consequences
▪ Some events and occurrences are irrational or absurd, without explanation. ▪ If one makes a decision, he or she must follow through. So existentialism, broadly defined, is a set of philosophical systems concerned with free will, choice, and personal responsibility. Because we make choices based on our experiences, beliefs, and biases, those choices are unique to us—and made without an objective form of truth. There are no “universal” guidelines for most decisions, existentialists believe. Even trusting...