The American Modernist Movement Essay

This essay has a total of 864 words and 5 pages.

The American Modernist Movement

Ernest Hemingway, John Stienbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald…The American Modernist movement has
generated some of the most famous authors to date. Flannery O’Connor may not have reached
the fame of her modern counterparts, but that does not mean her work is of any less value.
O’Connor wrote independent of the movement, with an original and controversial flair that
others could not achieve. Her philosophies and convictions encompassed an entirely
different world, where the ideals of Modernists clashed with her fierce Catholic beliefs.
Flannery created her stories on the brink of a turbulent era, and it shows. The influence
of important events in the 50s and 60s, such as African American civil rights, were a
staple in many of O’Connor’s stories.

At first glance, it may appear that O’Connor does not share many of the Modernist
qualities. While she did take part in the ironic nature of the era, she didn’t experiment
in the form or voice, or dabble in realist fiction. Her work was continuously her own,
unchanging and reliable, yet shocking.

A good example of the contrast and similarity between O’Connor and other Modernist is
found in the comparison of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and O’Connor’s short story
“The Lame Shall Enter First.” In Hemingway’s novel, an old and feeble man catches a
massive fish, but in an ironic twist, sharks eat away at it until he has nothing but a
skeleton to prove his fleeting accomplishment (The Old Man and the Sea ##). In “The
Lame Shall Enter First,” a man devotes himself entirely to a disabled hoodlum who
backstabs him, while his own son suffers through the painful loss of his mother. In a
shocking turn of events, the hoodlum exits his benefactor’s life and the son kills himself
(“The Lame Shall Enter First” 190). Ironically, the main characters in both stories are
left with a skeleton; one of a fish, and one of regrets. The difference lays in Flannery’s
message. She intended to comment on intellectualism and relations with God. Modernists
often tackled religion in an entirely different way. They used religious symbolism to add
dimensions to characters and questioned how our world would be different without God. Most
did not try to impart a moral lesson on the reader like O’Connor did.

The violence she used to make a moral impression on the reader was merely a means to an
end. Obviously O’Connor sought to contrast the authors of her time by providing an ethical
directory, rather than sheer entertainment.

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