The alienation of an individual in an absurd modernist world
How, Daphne Yan Ru
Date of Issue2016
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
In the early 20th century many people lost faith in traditional beliefs and cultures. World War I changed the way people perceived the world and made them question the truth of reality as while it was popularly believed that the war is a justified and necessary one in bringing about stability and eventually establishing world peace, horrors of the war revealed otherwise and exposed the truth that instead of improving peoples’ lives as it promised to, the war disrupted their daily lives and millions of innocent people (many were civilians) were killed in the process as well, the aftermath of the war thus proved that nothing concrete or beneficial was achieved out of this power struggle. Apart from World War I, progress in science played a role in changing people’s perception as well. It led to the introduction of Darwin’s theory of evolution which challenges the Bible’s account of the creation of mankind and with two opposing theories placed side by side, it then forced people to make a choice in deciding which to believe in. This in turn set the basis in which people realised there is a need to think and reflect about what is presented to them rather than just merely accepting everything as it is depicted. Developments in science also brought about advancement in technological innovations which urbanised societies and transformed the way they functioned. In the same way, modernist writers also shifted away from traditional methods of writing in favour of new forms that portray the self-reflexivity of the texts and the inner consciousness of their characters. Lewis affirms this accentuating that great thinkers like “Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud … emphasized the idea that humans … are not fully aware of the motives behind their actions” (19). By questioning the rationality of mankind and exploring deeper into the psychology of the human mind, modernist writers like Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett were able to delve into themes like existentialism. As individuals in a modern world now focus more on questioning of the self, they in turn come to reflect about the meaning and purpose of life and consequently realise that they cannot find any inherent meaning in it. The more they question the meaning of their existence, the more they see that no answer can be found. This irrational situation can be defined as the absurd, a term that “has its etymological roots in the Latin absurdus, meaning ‘contrary to reason or inharmonious’” (Gavins 1). This implies that the absurd is a situation that is illogical and cannot be made sense of in a rational manner.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University