The Lost of Self
"One generation passeth away, the passage from Ecclesiates began, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever. The sun also ariseh
"(Baker 122). A Biblical reference forms the title of a novel by Ernest Hemingway during the 1920s, portraying the lives of the American expatriates living in Paris. His own experience in Paris has provided him the background for the novel as a depiction of the 'lost generation'.
Hemingway's writing career began early; he edited the high school newspaper and, after graduation, got a job as reporter on a local newspaper. After that he was turned down by the Kansas City draft boards. He wanted to get to Europe and managed to there by volunteering as an ambulance driver. After being wounded, he recalled that life slid from him, "like you'd pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by a corner"(Villard 53), almost fluttered away, then returned. This was a period in his life when he became 'lost' and searched to overcome his own suffering and test his courage. His experiences in finding himself provided the background for The Sun Also Rises, which is one of the most famous novel ever written about the 'lost generation'. "It is Jake's narrative, his story, but behind Jake is Hemingway, the artist, manipulating the action"(Reynolds 73). Soon after the war, Hemingway married and he with his wife moved to Paris. There his bride gave him a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein. When they met, she commented that "You are all a lost generation," a
casual remark, yet one which became world famous after Hemingway used it as an epigraph to his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises.
The term 'lost generation' means a great deal to Hemingway's readers. It reflects the attitudes of the interwar generation, especially those of the literatures produced by the young writers of the time. These writers believed that their lives and hopes had been shattered by the war. They had been led down by a glory trail to death not for noble, patriotic ideas, but for the greedy, materialistic gains of the power groups. In his novels
"Hemingway recorded the changes in the moral atmospheric pressure. Home, family, church and family gave this war-wounded generation no moral support. The old valueslove, honor, duty, truthwere bankrupted by a war that systematically killed off a generation of European men and permanently scarred Americans like Jake, who fought during the last months of the debacles"(Reynold 63).
The high-minded ideas of their elders were not to be trusted; the only reality was truth and that was harsh. Life was futile and often meaningless. According to "President Harding's 'back to normalcy' policy, subject seemed to its members(the lost generation) to be hopelessly provincial, materialistic, and emotionally barren"("Lost Generation" 487). This demonstrates why this generation was in search of its own values. "The moral hypocrisy of Prohibition that so irritated Hemingway's generation produced exactly the reaction that Hemingway documents in his novel"(Reynolds 62).
The term 'lost generation' embraces Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Hart Crane, and may other writers who made Paris the
center of their literary activities in the 1920s. Although they never worked together as a group, their work was at times similar:
Hemingway's world is one in which things do not grow and bear fruit, but explode, break, decompose, or are eaten away. It is saved from total misery by visions of endurance, by what happiness the body can give when it does not hurt, by interludes of love which
cannot outcast the furlough and by a pleasure in the landscapes of countries and cafés one can visit. A man has dignity only as he can walk with a courage that has no purpose beyond itself among the fellow wounded, with an ear alert for the sound of the shell that really has his number on it. It is a barren world of fragments...
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