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How Ww1 Changed British Literature

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World War One began on July 28, 1914 and ended with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. The war cost a total of one hundred eighty-six billion dollars. The total casualties of the war were thirty-seven million, with another eleven million civilian casualties. The British Empire alone lost over three million people in the war. (English) World War One effected the whole world- the heartache and bloodshed changed politics, economics, and public opinion. This war changed people's lives, but it also changes their way of thinking and their way of writing. After World War One British literature was changed from simple stories to a more realistic and meaningful approach to life.

Nineteenth century England is what most historians call the Victorian age, which is how British literature got started. It was during the Victorian age that people began to learn how to read and write. "In 1837 about half of the adult male population could read and write; by the end of the century, literacy was almost universal." (Abrams) The novel became the most popular form of literature during this time period in England. "Victorian novels seek to represent a large and comprehensive social world, with the variety of classes and social settings that constitute a community." (Abrams) The authors of these novels tried to make the reader feel like the characters and the events that take place in the novel seem so realistic that they could see it happening in real life.

The novels were written about concerns, or issues, that the everyday person went through. The novels usually dealt with experiences with the relationship in the middle-class or inter-class relationships. Life during the Victorian age is explained in The Norton Anthology as, "a society where the material conditions of life indicate social position, where money defines opportunity, where social class enforces a powerful sense of stratification, yet where chances for class mobility exist." (Abrams) Victorian novels usually were focused on a persons struggle to find his or herself in the cruel world of social classes. These types of novels were often written during the Victorian age, in fact Charles Dickens wrote a novel called Great Expectations in 1861, which dealt with a boy named Pip and how he finds his place in the world.

There were many good writers during that time period. Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and H. G. Wells all wrote novels during the Victorian age and they all have a different style about them that makes them worth noting. Charles Dickens was the reason that the new spirit of realism came along in the nineteenth century. Dickens's novels of contemporary life exhibit an amazing ability to create living characters. Also, Dickens is known for his different style of humor and parody. Thomas Hardy wrote about other people's encounters with fate and circumstances, his outlook on life seems pessimistic when you read most of his novels. "Wells's novels often seem to be sociological investigations of the ills of modern civilization rather than self-contained stories." (English) H.G. Wells wrote novels based on his experiences in life, he wrote about what he thought would go wrong or what was wrong with the society that he was surrounded by.

Poets of the nineteenth century tried to tell stories through poetry. They also experimented with perspective and character. "'Amours de Voyage' is a long epistolary poem that tells the story of a failed romance through letters written by various characters." (Abrams) "Amours de Voyage" is an example of how Victorian poets tried to play with their characters. Victorian poets tried to make their story come alive by using great detail, this way the reader could draw a visual picture from the words on the paper. This picture that the author creates carries the emotion of the entire poem. The sound that a poem had during this time made all the difference. The way that a poet used alliteration, emphasis and different vowel sounds changed the flow of the poem. The poet could either have the poem flow smooth or rough. Many poets tried to capture these aspects, but only a few did it well.

The three notable poets of the Victorian age became similarly absorbed in social

issues. Beginning as a poet of pure romantic escapism, Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

soon moved on to problems of religious faith, social change, and political power.

All the characteristic moods of his poetry, from brooding splendor to lyrical

sweetness, are expressed with smooth technical mastery. His style, as well as his

peculiarly English conservatism, stands in some contrast to the intellectuality and

bracing harshness of the poetry of Robert Browning. Matthew Arnold, the third of

these mid-Victorian poets, stands apart from them as a more subtle and balanced

thinker- his literary criticism is the most remarkable written in Victorian times. His

poetry displays a sorrowful, disillusioned pessimism over the human plight in

rapidly changing times, a pessimism countered, however, by a strong sense of duty.


World War One was an event that changed literature throughout England and the world. People felt lost, broken and disheveled after the war. This is obvious when you see the change in literature after the war. Literature after the war, or post-war literature, is different from the literature during the Victorian age. "The optimism of previous decades was abandoned and a bleak, pessimistic outlook on life was adopted after people had experienced the brutality of warfare." (Karpilovsky) The traditional values of Western civilization, which the Victorians had only begun to question, came to be questioned seriously by a number of new writers, who saw society breaking down around them. Traditional literary forms were often discarded, and new ones succeeded, as writers sought fresher ways of expressing themselves and their experiences.

"Aldous Huxley best expressed the sense of disillusionment and hopelessness in the period after World War one in his Point Counter Point (1928). This novel is composed in such a way that the events of the plot form a contrapuntal pattern that is a departure from the straightforward storytelling technique of the



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