But I’m getting ahead of myself, and Hemingway would not approve. In the opening lines of “The Crack-Up,” Fitzgerald states, “Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work—the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from the outside—the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once.” This sentence, packed with dense ideas, changed the way Fitzgerald’s contemporaries viewed him and perhaps the way he viewed himself; he was no longer the debonair socialite with an acute talent for observing human behavior in social interactions but a broken, troubled man. the external with “the big sudden blows…that seem to come from the outside”.As mentioned earlier, the majority of WWI and interwar literature focused on factors external to the human psyche: facts, figures, patriotism, illustrations of events and scenes while Modernists focused on the internal process that happens long after such events take place: “the ones” that “don’t show their effect all at once.” Second, it hints at the idea of life as a continuous process of breaking down, which, if applied globally, speaks to war as a natural part of humanity, which goes against Fussell’s claims of the inadequacy of language to describe it.Broadly, the Modernist movement sought to move away from traditionalism and towards originality, particularly focusing on a “non-logical, non-objective, and essentially causeless mental universe.”** Because the war itself was non-logical.
Boys had become men and men had died doing their duty, serving their homelands, protecting what was right and good, as extolled in so many poems and media of the time.
Detachment was viewed as strength, and strength was now expected.
For example, Freud’s work with WWI veterans and dreams helped fuel the movement’s interest in the human subconscious and psyche, leading writers to approach their realities and experiences through metaphor, mythology, internal monologues, and even dream sequences, as in Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting.” In addition, the Great War stripped young authors—many of whom would shape the Modernist movement of interwar literature—of their idealism.
Included in this group was titan of the twenties, F.
Yet much of the poetry to come out of World War I was still focused on the collective “we” and the broader identifiers (things like “English,” “American,” “French,” “German,” “Homefront,” “Trenches”), and non-fiction remained largely historical and fact-based (which is to say, external).
Writers of fiction, on the other hand, delved into the internal workings of the individual brain.These experiences shape the way we view all those that follow, whether we want to acknowledge them or not.Fitzgerald explores these ideas later in his essay “Sleeping and Waking” as he recounts “the war dream.” In an attempt to get himself to sleep, he replays a fabricated scenario in which the Japanese have invaded the US and made it as far as Minnesota, Fitzgerald’s home state.posits that “logically, one supposes, there’s no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man’s works.The difficulty was in admitting that the war had been made by man and was being continued ad infinitum by them” (170).* While there is much debate and discussion over the “official” definition and dates of Modernism, we cannot overlook WWI and the ways it changed literary language.Which is also why some lesser-known works by Fitzgerald are so important.I am referring especially to the so-called “Crack-Up” personal essays published in in 1936.As Fitzgerald himself observes in his essay “Ring,” “A writer can spin on about his adventures after thirty, after forty, after fifty, but the criteria by which these adventures are weighted and valued are irrevocably settled at the age of twenty-five” (79).This reminds me of Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” and John Mc Crae’s “In Flanders Fields.” As a war veteran, I know firsthand that the rest of soldiers’ lives are shaped by what we were taught on the way to war, in war, and as we made that terrible transition back into a civilian world that lauded those “nasty or shameful acts” as heroic.In the post-war years, male emotion was acceptable for public consumption only if it were fictionalized, not as an autobiographical confession.Fitzgerald explored this very dilemma in the essay, “Sleeping and Waking,” published just more than a year before “The Crack-Up” essays appeared in print.