Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the 20th century assist 21st century human beings in the understanding of the purpose of existence?
I believe in order for individuals to understand the meaning of their present day lives and their future they need to be able to reflect on the history that took place before them and allow themselves to empathize with the events that occurred. In particular, for societies to thrive in the 21st century they need to understand the suffering and radical developments that were the catalyst of change for what is now the modern day world. I support the notion that the authors of the 20th century did allow audiences in the 21st century to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.
George Orwell was fundamental in allowing audiences to understand the consequences of political regimes and movements such as totalitarianism and Fascism. Through his works such as 1984 written in 1949 and Politics and the English Language written in 1946 show a different side to what is generally portrayed about governments and social trends. With the novel 1984, it explores the concept of free will and individuality. In particular, the contrast between the characters Winston Smith and Julia delves into the issue of lack of identity and limited creativity. As Winston is able to rebel against society with his ideas and knowledge while Julia is only able to rebel against society physically. Although there is no physical or deep connection between the characters, it does hint to the audience that being confined to limited amount of psychological and physical activity can destroy the essence of the meaning of life as we can see the deterioration of the characters throughout the second half of the novel. Also with the notion of Big Brother, it does show that in the 21st century that we have allowed this to control our lives with websites such as Facebook and Twitter; though this does show that the content that anyone shares or states is able to be patrolled and watched by higher authorities. Considering that Orwell did hint this to his audience in the 1950’s, it is still extremely relevant in the 21st century as we have allowed the notion of Big Brother to control us now in the present.
Even though art styles and genres changed dramatically over the 20th century with artists such as Pablo Picasso, literature changed just as much. I believe that one of the most radical changes in literature was poetry during the first war world where the context and atmosphere of the works changed from being a melodical and didactic to a realistic and personal description of what their experiences were. Poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilford Owen express the horrors of war and what the consequences of governments playing a political war have. This poets’ insight into war does allow audiences from both the 20th and 21st century as the events of the world wars does still effect some areas in the present day. These poems allow the audiences to realize how fragile life is and that they may have a bigger purpose in life than playing a pawn in a political game. I find it ironic that artworks such as Guernica by Pablo Picasso in 1938 are more well-known than some of the poetry created in regards to the aftermath of the world war. In my opinion, I believe that some of Owen’s works such as “Anthem of Doomed Youth” should be a compulsory subject in English studies in schools as I was able to gain a deeper insight into the atmosphere and consequences of war when comparing it to artworks from Modernism.
Overall, in this unit of 20th Century Literature I have been able to understand why the movements and ideals of the 20th century are still relevant to us in the 21st century as many of the authors concerns and interests still apply to a modern society.