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In the wake of a breakdown of our social, moral, political and cultural way of life and when the world as we knew it was changing, the only thing constant was who we were as individuals. The only thing we could really trust was ourselves. This was the scene in our country at the beginning of the twentieth century until after World War Two. One can see how a movement such as Modernism Literature could take hold. Modernism revolved around the idea of individualism, mistrust of institutions and the disbelief of any absolute truths which fell in line with the ideas of a society grasping for answers. While it seemed the world was in turmoil, authors of the Modernism movement followed suit with their literature.
As society questioned the beliefs of our forefathers a chaotic rebellion occurred and Modernism was the result. Between Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Planck's Quantum Physics, everything we believed in was under scrutiny and the population was left wondering about their own existence. With all these questions left unanswered, it seemed the literary world was taking advantage of the situation and Modernism started taking hold. The universal thematic concerns of Modernist literature are well-summarized by the sociologist Georg Simmel: "The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life."
In the Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka took Darwin's evolution theory and Einstein's physics to a new level of imagination. Kafka used Darwin's evolution concept as he transformed Gregor Samsa into a giant insect. While the life of Kafka certainly had some effect of the story line, especially his relationship with his father, mother and sister, Kafka definitely took advantage of the uprising against our ways of thinking when he wrote this short story. The irony of The Metamorphosis, or perhaps the intention of the story, is that it follows the reasoning behind the movement towards Modernism. As Gregor awakes to this awful predicament, the people of the western civilization also awaken to the uncertainty of life in general. Kafka's literary works was part of the beginning of a drive that eventually would revive the gothic style of literature.
H.P. Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear also played on Darwin's evolution theory when the main character of the story goes in search of the reasons behind the slaughtering and disappearance of humans around Tempest Mountain. The main character found that while the locals blamed a demon for the monstrosities, the actually suspects were the mutated remains of the entire Martense family. This is still another example of how the death, destruction and horrors of a gothic theme have made its way back into literature.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, to present day, gothic literature has advanced to be included in almost everything we read and see today. These times when the old authorities like God, government, science, and reason were subject to intense critical scrutiny, it seems natural that literary works would question these same subjects and these forces at work in society were inherited by the Modernistic writers. The Modernistic way of thinking paved way to Post Modernism where the literary works, instead of searching for meaning in a chaotic world, actually avoid the search for meaning and, often playfully, accept the possibility of it.
Joyce Carol Oates in "Haunted" described what appeared to be a story of her youth. She and her off and on friend, Mary Lou Siskin, would visit old abandoned farm houses and buildings for the thrill of it. Although her mother forbids her to see her friend, Oates would meet up with her anyway and off they would go on another adventure. This continued until the incident at the old Minton house. Oates visited the house alone without Mary Lou and met up with a woman squatter or even a ghost, who knows. The woman told Oates that she was to be punished because of her trespassing and continued to have her bare herself to be whipped. The woman then told her to send her friend back there too. When Oates told Mary Lou about it, Mary Lou said she would go there and find out for herself what was going on. It sadly ended for the worst for Mary Lou, who was found dead and mutilated in the nearby creek.
Oates proclaimed, as an elderly woman to still have problems with the whole story and couldn't sleep for thinking of what happened that dreary day. This is in Modern or Post Modern style because of the author using individuality to tell the story.
All somewhat are consistent as to when Modernism started. Post Modernism, on the other hand, isn't as clear. Some believe Post Modernism began in 1941 when Virginia Woolf and James Joyce died. Others believe it got its start at the conclusion of World War II. Still others further argue that the beginning of Post Modern Literature could be marked by noteworthy publications or literary events. For example, some mark the start of Post Modernism with the first publication of John Hawkes' The Cannibal in 1949, the first performance of Waiting for Godot in 1953, the first publication of Howl in 1956 or of Naked Lunch in 1959. Others believe the beginning is marked by moments in critical theory, or even as late as 1971. Postmodernism in literature is not an organized movement so it is difficult to say if it has ended or when it will end. Some declared the death of Post Modernism in the 1980's with a new surge of realism represented and inspired by Raymond Craver. Still others believe that Post Modernism ended at the end of the 1980's. It is obvious that whether it has ended or not, the literary works of today definitely are related to the Post Modern and Modern works of the twentieth century.