Realist authors George Eliot, Henry James, and Mark Twain set their novels in recognizable locations, incorporated acute observations and meticulous detail, and were more interested in complex, flawed characters than traditional archetypes. Their plots often prioritized characters’ emotional conflicts over dramatic external events. While all realism, whether set in a country manor or on the Mississippi, contains social commentary, social realism specifically critiques a social or political issue—for example, Charles Dickens’s
Modernism was a literary and artistic movement that began in the 1900s, as a response to the rise in technology and urbanization in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Like realists, modernist writers were interested in the individual, internal experience, and drew on theories of the unconscious to mine their characters’ inner lives. But modernists were also interested in stylistic experimentation, fashioning new literary forms to explore breakdowns in traditional modes of communication and questioning the very nature of reality itself. Their work expressed concerns about automation at the turn of the century, and, later, horror at the First World War and its aftermath.
Following the war, several American writers, including Fitzgerald, moved to Paris and began meeting at the home of the poet Gertrude Stein. The writers of this so-called “Lost Generation” strove to represent the struggle of the individual in the face of the chaos, anonymity, and alienating effects of modernity. In
Because he was writing at the height of modernism and interacted with famous proponents of the movement such as Gertrude Stein, Fitzgerald is most often remembered as an American modernist, and
At the same time,
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