English 3 Schmidt/Young/Heuer Literary Modernism March 2, 2011 Name Period the lost generation: american writers of the 1920'S

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English 3 Schmidt/Young/Heuer

Literary Modernism March 2, 2011
Name _____________________ Period _____

During the 1920's a group of writers known as "The Lost Generation" gained popularity. The three best known writers among “The Lost Generation” are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. The "Lost Generation" defines a sense of moral loss or aimlessness apparent in literary figures during the 1920s.

Ernest Hemingway                      F. Scott Fitzgerald                  John dos Passos
World War I seemed to have destroyed the idea that if you acted virtuously, good things would happen. Many good, young men went off to World War I and died, or returned home either physically or mentally wounded (for most, both), and their faith in the moral guideposts that had earlier given them hope, were no longer valid...they were "Lost." http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/hpolscrv/jbolhofer.html

Many Americans believed that the American loss of values could be blamed mostly on alcohol. They had enough political influence to have hard liquor outlawed, known as Prohibition. So, on January 16, 1920, the 18th Amendment became law, enforced by the National Prohibition Act. Liquor, beer, and wine were illegal throughout America.

However, although alcohol was banned, Americans continued to manufacture and drink it; men and women actually drank more of it. They created new ways to transport it without getting arrested. One method was using a hip flask; another was hiding it in books and coconut shells, or by filling hot-water bottles and hiding it under their clothing. (“The Jazz Age – The 20s,” 20-132)

Bootlegging became big business. In 1921 federal agents seized 96,000 stills and pieces of distilling equipment; in 1925 they seized 173,000; in 1930 it had reached 282,000. Some bootleggers stole alcohol from manufacturing plants, smuggled it from abroad, or made it themselves. One famous bootlegger, Al Capone, was said to have controlled the entire business from Canada to Florida. (“The Jazz Age – The 20s,” 20-132)

Also, like many Americans during the twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker and partier. He was an alcoholic since college and had problems controlling money and alcohol; most of his money being spent on booze and parties. When drunk, he was insulting to servants and friends. In the summer of 1925, Fitzgerald wrote “Life is 1,000 parties and no work”, which exactly described his own life. (Epstein)

After World War I, American values began to go sour. No one wanted to deal with world problems. Americans became frivolous and rebellious, questioning traditional values and beliefs. The saying of the twenties was “eat, drink, and be merry”, but it had its outcome: “for tomorrow we die.” Morals underwent a revolution. The youth of the ‘20’s, girls in particular, began to question the authority of elders.

When people now think of the “The Lost Generation”, they cannot help but think of a godless society that hopelessly turned to drinking and partying to forget life’s problems; it was a society that desperately pursued meaning in life after a period of such tragedy and despair. These characteristics so prevalent in the lives of many Americans were clearly present in the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Epstein)


After reading the information about American society in the 1920s, go back and highlight details that answer the following:

  • Why did this generation feel “lost”?

  • How did this generation try to escape society’s problems?

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