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‘[F]ear of the new and delight at the disappearance of the old, nihilism and fanatical
enthusiasm, creativity and despair’ – (Peter Childs, Modernism).
The modern era, also known as the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason also described as a time of change in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the religious wars sent Europe on a rampage. During this time the world was becoming more technologically advanced. The enlightenment thinkers of that time thought that they needed to separate religion and politics. The reason behind that philosophy was they believed that people should have the freedom to make up their own minds about what they believed in. During this era, Deism was becoming popular. “Deism was a compromise between the oppressiveness of Christianity and atheistic materialism. Many philosophers, including Voltaire, agreed that there must be a God. If not where would human goodness and morality come from? Voltaire would later rescind any such faith. Deists also shifted in their beliefs on God. Rousseau believed in a personal and providential God, while others believed that God had no involvement with the world he created. Deism was a non-ritual religion that was supposed to result in the highest moral behavior of its adherents (Gettysburg)”. The Deism philosophy was appealing to the individuals who were strongly intrigued by the Enlightenment principles of rationality, individualism, and freedom.
“By 1900, after centuries of European expansion, there were no longer, in the words of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, any “Blank spaces” on the map” (Norton P. 4). One major conflict that played a role in the novel was the corruption and dehumanization of the characters which had a negative impact on their actions while in the Congo. One was Mr. Kurtz, he was a very smart and intelligent man who was placed in charge of a station in the Congo to take responsibility and lead others to the ivory and the other resources. Kurtz was soon taken over by the greed. He formed a good relationship with the natives and began searching for the ivory. Kurtz morals were different from those of us today. He valued money over everything even going as extreme as his own life and even to the point where he would be without something that is necessary to survive which lead him to no longer caring about what could or would happen to anyone including himself. Marlow said to the Russian “He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out the country, because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased (Conrad 50)”. That shows that Kurtz would do anything in his power to gain wealth and nothing was going to get in his way of doing so, no matter if it had meant he had to kill people for the ivory.
Kurtz shows very little remorse for his actions which shows hand in hand how he is dehumanized as an individual.
Just like the Heart of Darkness story Kurtz was doing any and everything just to find his identity. In the story The Tattooer by Junichiro Tanizaki who was a Japanese author who wrote stories that portrayed the family life during the changes over the 20th century, where many authors were in search for the cultural identity which went against the traditional Japanese traditions. In the story, Seikichi was a skillful tattooer who had a secret fetish for inflicting pain on men while the girl who was a servant who would do anything to look beautiful shows that she’s not really in touch with her full potential an identity herself. “In the middle of it a young woman stood leaning against the trunk of a cherry tree: she was gloating over a heap of men’s corpses lying at her feet. Little birds fluttered about her, singing in triumph; her eyes radiated pride and joy. Was it a battlefield or a garden in spring?” (Junichiro p. 82) When Seikichi tattooed the giant spider on the girls back, after he finished it the woman’s beauty intensifies, and she takes on this power suddenly one that she’s never felt before. Which gives him the gratification that he desires which is another example of how he is trying to find his true self.
The Lost Generation’s argued that America because of modernization had transformed itself into a nation “utterly devoid of idealism or vision, steeped in outmoded and priggish morality, obsessed with materialism and consumerism, [resulting in] alienating and dehumanizing [the American people]” (Brinkley). In William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” tells the story of a young boy and his father named Abner Snopes is the boy’s father who throughout the story shows how he sees himself, others, and the world. He sees the world in a cruel way and a person who gives out inflicted punishments on whoever encounters him who has done any wrongdoing to him. He only thinks of himself, where he claims to be the victim rather the criminal. Just like in the Heart of Darkness with the character Kurtz, Albner has no loyalty toward anyone but himself, well at least he does but, he has not one ounce of love for himself which in the end is what destroys him. Albers son Sarty is stuck between a rock and hard place between finding his true self and being loyal to his family. In the story, Sarty encounters the De Spains who he views as having peace and dignity. What Sarty doesn’t see is that this peace and dignity that he sees was gained by dehumanizing the slaves and being violent toward them.
“The traumatic aftermath of WWI was monumental and timeless. Yeats’ poem emits a sense of prevailing doom and cataclysm in its scrutiny of a postbellum human understanding. ‘Spiritus Mundi’, translated from the Latin as ‘earth spirit’, appears as a troubling sight in the final verse, shoving the idea of the ‘Second Coming’ to the side. Thus, Yeats shows how war is the catalyst for devastating rupture and displacement to the world order as known before. The consequences are bleak and fearsome: dehumanization and loss of faith” (Student).
In the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth” written by Wilfred Owen’s. In the poem titled “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” the soldiers are being compared to cattle and being slaughtered like animals. In the First few lines of the poem show the dehumanization of the individuals who are making a sacrifice and putting their lives on the line for this war, they are facing. In the poem, the soldiers are not given any respect while they sacrifice their lives and die for this country and when they are eventually killed their bodies are being treated like “Nobody’s”. “No mockeries for them” (Line 5) shows that they are not being treated with respect even after their death and being treated like cattle when they are about to be slaughtered. When he states, “Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs” he is saying basically that those who died can’t have a proper burial and get the respect that they deserved and say their goodbye’s in a proper form.
In the Novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque tells a story about a guy named Paul Baumer as he fights in World War 1, while doing so he slowly finds out that war is not what he expected he quickly encountered the trials and tribulations of being a soldier and fighting in a war. Going into was basically as a “boy” and being forced to grow up quickly but in the end, having to be forced to become a man but with many doubts. Many people think war makes people heroes but to Paul, it dehumanizes him to the point where he can’t recognize himself from his fellow soldiers. The soldiers are described as Iron it is said that “[They] are the iron youth(Remarque)”. Paul and his fellow comrades are tough and strong. But what is not said and shown is how they are aging mentally and emotionally and physically because of the hardships they are having to endure daily. When they finally return home, they have become so dehumanized from seeing near death, death, and horror many times. They try to live up to the world’s label for them as a hero that they forget deep down inside that they come back really broken and alone.