Modernism, a literary movement of the twentieth century, reveals the rejection of tradition and an era of experimentation and discovery in the exploration of individualism and nature of social institutions. Thomas Stearns Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street’ and Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ criticise contemporary life through a dichotomy of the individual and society, which highlights an evident distinction between traditional and new ideologies. The damaged and sterile condition of modern society is predominantly exposed as the individual struggles with isolation from social institutions, thus exhibiting the rejection of traditional practices and the establishment of new ways of understanding the world.
In Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, irregular rhyme and images contribute to a fragmented depiction of society. The debasement of the environment, from “the sky” to “half deserted streets” to the “sawdust restaurants”, implies its eventual degradation. The dramatic monologue satirises society’s paralysed and wounded state, established by the simile “like a patient etherised”, primarily through Prufrock, who initially embodies indecisive and timid qualities.
Prufrock, undertaking an existentialistic point of view, also recognises modern life’s lack of authenticity and meaningless existence; juxtapositions, for instance “murder and create”, reflects his irritation to its wastefully contradicting nature. Prufrock’s references to time and repetitions, such as “known them all already, known them all” and “Do I dare?” establish his procrastination, entrapment in the sterile society and yet refusal to engage in society’s conventions. Thus, within the individual’s struggle, readers are able to explore Prufrock’s rejection of traditional practices and ultimate creation of his own understanding of the world.
Megan Saliva Alternative Calendars 9 November 1999 Existence in a World Divided Lurking in the mystery of the Orient (Tanizakis 20) lies the images and beauty created by shadows. It is this traditional essence which is being replaced and forgotten as westernized culture and morality sprout their roots in the Japanese society. Tanizakis specifically examines this idea of clashing cultures in the ...
The metaphoric impersonation of a cat through the objective correlative “the yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes…lingering upon the pool that stand in drains” creates a sentiment of unwelcomed contamination and suffocation for the industrial revolution. The fog represents the inevitable nature of industrialisation and hence exemplifies modernity’s infiltration and degradation of society.
The imagery of “squeezed the universe into a ball” symbolises the packaging of lives into merchandise and the objectification of humanity through commodity fetishism; while “all the works and days of hands” denotes Fordism, the capitalist division of labour. Repetition and metaphors like “to prepare a face” attaches a tedious and false sentiment, and thus exhibits Prufrock’s rejection of the repression and meaninglessness of society’s consumer practices.
Prufrock represents the emasculation of men as 20th century women attained rights and dominance in the workforce. Eliot’s rejection of such gender role changes is fortified in the refrain “In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo”, which portray the superficiality of modern women. The ridicule of Prufrock through his comparison to Michelangelo’s statue of David, an ideal figure of masculinity, and metaphors of ‘eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase’ reinforces women’s prejudice, judgmental and pretentious nature. Ultimately, the women are symbolised as superficial mermaids, and the tone of realisation and resignation in “I do not think that they will sing to me” contrasts Prufrock’s previous indecisiveness, illustrating his final rejection of feminist practices and modern social conventions.
Abstract Expressionism was an American post-war 2 art movement that developed mainly in New York. The most renowned artists were located in New York and though the movement was broad and the many works of art very different, certain characteristics are observable in the development of the movement. These similarities lie in the artists’ ideas and concerns that were generally related to the human ...
The poem’s structural change from enjambment, providing a flow of indecisive emotions, to short punctuated sentences signifies Prufrock’s transformation from submissive procrastination to a resolute figure. This is evidently portrayed in his allusion “No! I am not Prince Hamlet”, as Hamlet is a symbol of hesitance. Prufrock’s metaphor of “we drown” depicts his entrapment by the vacillation of modern life. Alternatively, the deceitful “mermaids singing” juxtaposes the “human voices” which will “wake us”, symbolising Prufrock’s rejection of the meaningless mass culture. Thus, “we drown” also portray Prufrock’s existentialistic transcendence from mechanisms that affirm society, through his rejection of social mores and the sterility of modern society.
Similarly in Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street’, the individual’s resistance to society’s traditional cultural and social practices illustrates the damaged psyche of modern society.
Enhancing insight into the Lawyer’s character through first person narration display several evident dichotomies, such as Sigmund Freud’s Id and Ego relationship, from contradictions within the narrator’s inner thoughts. The commencing account of the Lawyer’s detached relationship with his scriveners, symbolised by the “ground glass folder-doors (that) divided my premises into two parts, one of which was occupied by my scriveners, the other by myself”, contributes in his sociological characterisation. However, the Lawyer rejects society’s materialism by impractically tolerating Bartleby’s presence in the office. The Lawyer’s conflict between his paternal instincts of responsibility and figure for society demonstrates his struggle against the decay of humanity; as modern commoditisation, centring the importance of production and objectified behaviour, replaces human conscience and moral imperatives.
The metaphors of “purchase a delicious self-approval” and “sweet morsel for his conscience” highlight the materialistic belief in modern society, initially embodied by the Lawyer. The Lawyer’s act of charity to Bartleby arises chiefly from his commercial concern or self-conscience, as eventually, the Lawyer abandons Bartleby as his business becomes affected. This depicts the destruction of religious significance in charity by the essence of consumerism, as charity becomes a medium to purchase a good conscience. Bartleby’s denial of Lawyer’s charity thus exhibits Bartleby’s rejection of such pretentious and egocentric practices. Instead, when the Lawyer seeks to understand Bartleby without the intention of exploitation, Bartleby’s wavering in his inertness suggests his humanitarian way of understanding the world, which is of stark disparity from society’s principles. Thus, the anguished tone in “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity” indicates the Lawyer’s ultimate recognition of the detrimental nature of modern consumerist and materialistic practices.
An amazing curiosity had developed while reading Melville's Bartleby. After completing the work, I was left in awe. Who was this man and what did his story signify Melville makes the reader thirsty for the acquaintance of Bartleby and leaves him unquenched. Only through comparisons to critiques and theories was I able to gratify my peculiar inquiries of Bartleby. I strongly believe that Melville ...
Melville, like Eliot, displays modern society as bleak and sterile through negative connotations of “chambers” and “the windows commanded an obstructed view of a lofty brick wall”, which resemble a prison. As a consumable necessity, the scriveners’ food nicknames of Turkey, Nippers and Ginger Nut symbolises the narrator’s complete exploitation, repression and alienation of his employees. Monotony and superficiality is further emphasised by the scriveners’ mechanical work of copying law documents. This relationship reflects workers’ objectification in a modern capitalist society as one’s value becomes based solely upon their economic role.
Undertaking a Marxist standpoint, Bartleby’s free will, due to his detachment from society, juxtaposes the confinement and emptiness of modern life. His refusal to eat food or submit to mundane work, reinforced by the repetition of “I would prefer not to”, represents Bartleby’s resistance to capitalist exploitation; consequently, retaining his individuality. Bartleby’s death, symbolic to his disengagement from the capitalist world, demonstrates his ultimate rejection of society’s materialistic and repressive practices, as he instead induces significance in the cultural and spiritual aspects of life. However, his death hence also exemplifies the vanity of human resistance to mortality and empty modern conventions.
The alienation of Josef K. from society in Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ explores similar modernist themes, of individual’s resistance to mortality, modern bureaucracy and capitalist practices. The court’s inaccessibility, yet limitless control on human life represents the mechanisms of a totalitarian society. Associations with suffocating air emphasise the court’s universal oppression of humanity, where the mechanical illustration of workers of the Law unquestioningly follow orders and imagery of “almost identical houses… lofty grey tenements” establish a sense of monotony and meaninglessness to modern people. Thus, the rejection of modern bureaucracy and objectification is symbolised in K., who “found the air too stuffy” in the court’s vicinity.
1.Does modern technology make life more convenient, or was life better when technology was simpler? First of all, I am always a person who believe in science and technology, so certainly, my answer is sided with modern technology. Yes, it does make our life much more convenient for so many reasons. Firstly(time), modern technology has greatly helped us save time and energy. And this started from ...
A court’s usual connotation of power and authority juxtaposes its location in a bleak rundown neighbourhood, where fragmented images engender a sentiment of urban crowding and industrialisation. The cathedral’s infiltration by modern paintings and the prison chaplain, as a court official, signifies the replacement of religion and spirituality. Collectively, these demonstrate the overall erosion of humanity, and thus, K. develops an antagonistic and nihilistic relationship with society. However, the ironic juxtaposition between K’s extensive resistance, evidenced by K’s monologues, and sudden unjustified execution exposes the irrationality of modern bureaucracy and the futility of the human’s inherent struggle to seek ‘meaning’ to life.
The comparison of K’s death to Block’s demoralising suppression, where connotations of a dog such as “jerked him up a little by his coat collar” were formerly manifested, through the simile of “like a dog!” recognises the dominance and humanity’s inevitable submission to a dystopian society; although K’s refusal to kill himself during the execution expresses his final rejection to modern society’s conventions. K’s relationship with the court system thus emphasises the capricious and detrimental nature of modern society to human existence, establishing Kafka’s notions of nihilism and absurdism which transcend and reject society’s repressive and objectifying practices.
Before the existence of an advanced civilization many steps of evolution is required. The complex human society is one of the best examples there is. For example the revolutionary steps from the Paleolithic and the Neolithic to the Modern World is filled with wonder and awe. However, the ascents involved is not that extraordinary; if it is being closely observed. Foremost, the Nomadic People of ...
One of the prominent characteristics of modernist literature is the relationship between the isolated individual and society. Through this conflicting relationship, Thomas Stearns Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street’ and Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ reveal modern society’s destruction of humanity, and consequently, the individual’s rejection of these traditional practices and establishment of new ways of understanding the world in which we live.