Lost Generation vs Beat Generation

Topics: Beat Generation, Ernest Hemingway, Lost Generation Pages: 8 (2763 words) Published: June 3, 2013
A Comparison between Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac in Context of their Corresponding Literary Periods


While reading Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road I have noticed that the author Ernest Hemingway is mentioned quite often in the book. This has raised my interest to focus my research on the following. For the purpose of this paper I would like to take a closer look at Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, in context of the Beat Generation, in comparison to Ernest Hemingway, the leader of the Lost Generation. This paper tries to show the differences and the agreements between the two literary streams and how it influenced the two particular authors. Therefore, the paper starts with a definition of the Lost Generation and Hemingway in particular, and then I will try to deal with different aspects of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road and its corresponding literary period. Finally, I would like to argue if the two authors are classical or rather if they are beyond classical norms.

The Lost Generation
The term was coined by Gertrude Stein, who was a Lost Generation writer herself, and she argues “All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation” and applied that term to the writers of the 1920’s (Monk 1) It was a particular group of writers, like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald who spent some time in Europe between World War I and World War II and rejected the values of post-war America. Most of the young men had to march in and fight at the front, which is the reason why World War I left its mark among those writers. Many young men died in the war or were physically or mentally wounded. They felt lost and furthermore, all their basic values were gone after the war, because they have seen the consequences of what humanity is able to do. They lost their faith in the moral guide that had given them hope before, but that was no longer valid. They had to take the consequences; no goals in life and no perspectives anymore. Basically, they were hanging out in bars and got drunk in order to deal with their situation of being a writer in the 1920’s of whom society expected to continue writing in Victorian Times’ style. In order to find freedom they went abroad, mainly to Paris, because they all shared a similar sense of disillusionment after the war. The formed a new youth culture that corresponded to “expatriate Americans with literary and aesthetic aspirations” (Monk 2).The Lost Generation departed from traditional principles. They were inspired by European culture and used their experiences abroad in order to frame a cultural achievement on their own. It also gave them new insight. Paris was the centre of European culture and furthermore the ultimate destination in Europe. In Paris you could experience sexual freedom and it was also the centre of Bohemia (Monk 191). Especially Ernest Hemingway was inspired to write about his life in Paris (Monk 139). The Lost Generation carries along two main metaphors, which Hemingway tended to use quite often in his novels. Being on the road was one of them and had the deeper meaning that those writers were still moving even though they did not know where to go, because as I have mentioned before, they lost all their goals in life. The second metaphor would be impotence due to the fact that it was really hard for them to fall in love with someone. They were not able to love and therefore they only had sexual relationships. The literary phase of the Lost Generation was introduced by Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, which was a portrait of recklessness and waste and therefore also a portrayal of the Lost Generation (Monk, 6). The mainstream media of the US feared that this book could possibly become a bible for the disaffected youth of the early 20th century (Monk 6). However, the Lost Generation was looking for peace in general and searching for a way of life. Hemingway painted a picture of the Lost...

Cited: Dardess, George. “The Delicate Dynamics of a Friendship: A Reconsideration of Kerouac’s On the Road.” American Literature 46.2 (1974): 200-6. JSTOR. 20 Sept. 2010
Dardess, George. “The Logic of Spontaneity: A Reconsideration of Kerouac 's Spontaneous Prose Method.” The Oral Impulse in Contemporary American Poetry 2.3 (1975): 729-46. JSTOR. 20 Sept. 2010 .
Levin, Harry. “Observations of the Style of Ernest Hemingway.” The Kenyon Review 13.4 (1951): 581-609. JSTOR. 20 Sept. 2010 .
Monk, Craig. Writing the Lost Generation. Iowa City: Iowa UP, 2008.
Zerlauth, Martin. “Lost? Beat? X? - An existentialist reappraisal of Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta - The Sun Also Rises, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X - Tales for an Accelerated Culture.” Univ., Dipl.-Thesis. U of Innsbruck, 1999.
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