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Search for Innocence in American Modernism

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Search for Innocence in American Modernism

American Literature from its very beginning has been centered around a theme of innocence. The Puritans wrote about abandoning the corruption of Europe to find innocence in a new world. The Romantics saw innocence and power in nature and often wrote of escaping from civilization to return to nature. After the Civil War, however, the innocence of the nation is challenged. The Realists focused on the loss of innocence and in Naturalist works innocence is mostly gone. During these periods of American Literature it seems almost as if a hole was being dug, a sort of emptying of innocence, and after World War I the Modernists called this hole the wasteland Many Modernist works focus on society lost in the wasteland, but they hint at a way out. The path out of the wasteland is through a return to innocence. This is evident in the Modernist works of The wasteland by T. S. Eliot, "Directive" by Robert Frost, "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and "Hills Like White Elephants" by Earnest Hemingway as will be shown in an analysis of the inhabitants of the wasteland and their search for innocence, the role of children and pregnancy in the wasteland, and the symbolism of water and rebirth.

But before I go on, I believe that I should first clarify what I mean by "a return to innocence." First, there is some confusion between innocence and ignorance. They are often used interchangeably. Because a person is innocent, it does not mean that he or she is unaware of reality. Innocence is almost like a different type of view. A child and an adult may interpret a single thing entirely differently, but this does not mean that the adult knows more about that thing. Innocence is open ...

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...ed society and only through the return of innocence can there be hope of anything better.

Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. The wasteland. In The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume II. Edited by Paul Lauter et al. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991: 1447-1463.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Babylon Revisited." In The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume II. Edited by Paul Lauter et al. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991: 1471-1485.

Frost, Robert. "Directive." In The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume II. Edited by Paul Lauter et al. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991: 1208-1209.

Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants." In The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume II. Edited by Paul Lauter et al. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991: 1471-1485.
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