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The Effect of War on American Literature.

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Catherine Bost Eng. 202-880, online April 13, 2003 Essay 2 The Effect of War on American Literature The end of World War I marked the beginning of a new era in American literature. Art created during this time period has been described as "work that represents the breakdown of society under the pressures of modernity" (1078). The impact of two world wars had a powerful effect on American literature. Works such as "Apostrophe to Man" and "I Forgot for a Moment" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, explore the nature of warfare and how humanity reacts to its destructive powers. These two works convey the author's outlook on war through vivid descriptions, images of destruction, and contrasting images of peace. In "Apostrophe to Man," Millay expresses her views on the nature of war. ...read more.


The general tone of "Apostrophe" is negative, focusing on the humanity's ability to destroy itself, using war as justification for our actions. The author uses personification to show the scope of the war's impact on the world, perhaps saying that even inanimate objects feel the horror, when she refers to "the bewildered ammonia and the distracted / cellulose" (ll. 4-5). These otherwise innocuous items become the raw material for the weapons against enemies during times of conflict. The emphasis on Nature's images in "I Forgot for a Moment" expresses the ideal of peace. The quiet descriptions of "scarlet strip and mauve strip bright beneath the brightly clouded sky, / the round clouds and the gentle air" (l. 10) seem to look backward (or perhaps even forward) to a more peaceful time. In this poem, the images of nature depict a sense of tranquility because the "level lowlands" (l. ...read more.


While "Apostrophe" uses the second-person voice to criticize the violent tendencies of humanity, "I Forgot" is written in first person, with the narrator reminiscing about how pleasant life in Europe was before the onset of war. The author remembers a time when she was "with the things and people that I love, and I was happy there. / I forgot for a moment Holland, I forgot my heavy care" (ll. 3-4). The image of the "broad ships, their hulls by tulip-beds concealed, only the sails showing" (l. 12) conveys the idea of nature overcoming that which is man-made. "Apostrophe to Man" and "I Forgot for a Moment" differ mainly in their basic messages. "Apostrophe" is a pessimistic portrayal of civilization, while "I Forgot" seems to have at least the suggestion of optimism. But in both poems, the author is expressing her views on the dreadful reality of war. It is interesting to note that although these poems were both written over 60 years ago, they are very relevant in today's violent world. ...read more.

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