The art, literature, and poetry of the early 20th century called for a disruption of social values. Modernism became the vague term to describe the shift. The characteristics of the term Modernism, all seek to free the restricted human spirit. It had no trust in the moral conventions and codes of the past. One of the examples of modernism, that breaks the conventions and traditions of literature prior to Modernism, is Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants”. The short story uses plot, symbolism, setting, dialogue, and a new style of writing to allow human spirit to experiment with meaning and interpretation.
Some of the characteristics of Modernism are: a desire to break conventions and established traditions, reject history, experiment, remove relativity, remove any literal meaning, and create an identity that is fluid. The rejection of history sought to provide a narrative that could be completely up for interpretation. Any literal meaning no longer existed nor was it easily given; essence became synonymous. Narrative was transformed. Epic stories, like “Hills Like White Elephants”, could occur in the sequence of a day. Stories became pushed by a flow of thoughts. The narrative became skeptical of linear plots, preferring to function in fragments. These fragments often led to open unresolved inconclusive endings. This echoes in the short story’s format. The short story functions in fragmented dialogue. Focusing on subjectivity rather than objectivity. Creating characters with unfixed, mixed views to challenge readers.
The characters of a modernist narrative reflected a new way of thinking. A summery no longer highlighted meaning, it was ambiguous. The ambiguity portrayed unmanageable futures. The Modernis...
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... seemingly simplistic. Hemingway discovered a way to demonstrate the complexity of the human spirit and identity through simplistic diction, word choice, and sentence structure. The story is only a small part of the deeper inner complex of the narrative. The short story allows a fluidity of thoughts between the individual and the characters without ever actually describing their thoughts. With no ending the story is completely left to interpretation providing no satisfactory ending or message.
Hemingway, Ernest. Death in the Afternoon. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932.Print.
Sexton, Adam. Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway,
and Other Greats : Lessons from the All-star Writer's Workshop. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.
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