Modern Age in British Literature

3 March 2017

To begin, at its time, modernism brought more literature to the stage than most if not all other eras preceding it. A perk of the Victorian Age was the greatly increased literacy rate, and with that came a higher demand for all kinds of literature. The influx of upcoming authors was looked down upon by those more sophisticated and well known, but the public found the newcomers more interesting. “Writers who refused to bow to the popular tastes found themselves in a state of alienation from the mainstream of society” (Rahn 1).

Even though most of these refined novelists and poets were not well spoken of, they still made large literary contributions that society took in. Eventually populism returned to the mainstream of modern literature. On the topic of upcoming authors, society was not seeing the common majority of works by only Caucasian males anymore. More variety was seen in this era as women, the unwealthy, and several minorities were publishing their works and being noticed.

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Langston Hughes, an African-American poet and females like Amy Lowell were publishing works and breaking the literary barriers for minorities.

This age was the beginning of racial/sexual diversity in literature. Characteristics of modernism have been seen as far back as the 19th century. Modern age thinkers were largely contrasting of the most recent Naturalist era. While naturalists pondered the concepts of nature and life, modernists were taking into account the shocking events that took place at the time, and the toll it took on individuals. “The Modernist cares rather little for Nature, Being, or the overarching structures of history.

Instead of progress and growth, the Modernist intelligentsia sees decay and a growing alienation of the individual” (Rahn 1). One of the major events in this era was World War I. Known as the War to End All Wars, society experienced the horror the war brought and had no idea that the world could ever dive into such chaos and terror, and wondered where the war will take them afterwards. World War I definitely inspired the earlier modern writers, reinforcing their point about decaying societies and alienation, which may be experienced by war veterans inflicted by war terrors.

Moving on, one of the well known poets of the modern age was Dylan Marlais Thomas. Born on October 27, 1914, Thomas grew up in South Wales, Swansea with an English Literature professor for a father. Though his parents spoke Welsh, he and his sister were exclusively taught English instead. Thomas was a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post until he decided to quit and focus on his poetry full time. As mentioned in his biography, it was during the period of time after he left the Post that he wrote over half of his known poems (“Dylan Thomas” 1).

He moved to London in 1934 where he published his first book 18 Poems which became a great success. Two years later, he met and married Caitlin Macnamara, eventually moving to the U. S. in 1950. Thomas toured America four times over, and as he toured he recited his poems to audiences very well. “Thomas read his poems in a booming Welsh voice that was very effective on the stage” (“Thomas, Dylan” 1). Thomas passed out in a hotel after heavy drinking one night, and was announced dead on November 9th, 1953. A plaque dedicated to Thomas was set in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey 30 years later.

Some of Thomas’ works include poems such as Fern Hill, I see the boys of summer, and My hero bares his nerves. Another poem written by Dylan Thomas is titled Do not go gentle into that good night. The poem in its entirety is the excerpt of Thomas’ work included in this paper. Analyzing the poem, it seems to depict the speaker (most likely Thomas himself) urging his dying father not to let go of life so easily. He urges his father to fight against death, and even if it seems inevitable, he must not succumb to it so easily.

Thomas must have written this poem while his father was in a critical condition. Thomas may have written this poem solely for himself, since it is rumored that he never read or showed the poem to his father. The mood of this poem ties in with the overall feeling of the modernist age since in these times the authors could easily be negatively impacted by concerns such as the world wars. While a dying loved one initially invokes sadness, the current events of the time can amplify the feelings these authors have in their writing.

Finally, modernism has played a part in creating the next literary era: the post-modernism age. Essentially, while modernism involved concepts such as loss being a common theme and questioning the truth, “postmodernism is more playful or celebratory regarding the world’s “insanity”” (Byrne 1). Postmodernism was the beginning of looking at things in a brighter light, so to speak. In conclusion, the modern age helped bring a change in how society thinks about truth and reality (Rahn 1). Larger groups of authors were seen in this era, and minorities were seen to publish their works openly.

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