Historical and literary landscape of XX century
Like any other European countries, also Britain was involved in the two world wars but however many domestic changes happened, especially in the period between the two world wars.
For example a very important date was 1918, because it was in this year that women, in England, over 30 obtained right to vote. Some years later, in 1928, the voting age was lower to 21. It was a great change, also because England was one of the first European countries to give women the right to vote.
Furthermore the government found to improve the social condition of people, especially of the poor classes, because unemployment was very high, especially after 1929 (Wall Street crash).
In the second half of the 1930s, especially industries and agriculture improved their productivities and for this reason people were able to find job and also houses and food.
The beginning of the Second World War was especially terrible for England because of bombing (London itself was bombed), and after the war England was in terrible conditions but however an important change happened in political because after the general election in 1945, the conservatives were beaten and the Labour party (that represented the workers, the poor classes) won the elections and it introduced a program of conscious reforms: these reforms wanted to remove any social injustice and so they created the so called welfare state.
This century was such a different century for its historical events. The most important result of XX century was experimentation: the artists experimented new ways of reproducing the complex changed reality of that period. The search for new works of expression first of all was carried out in the filled of fiction (there were a lot of new techniques).
Characters became very important, more important than love for example because the authors tried to reproduced the inner life of the characters, and not what was around them. So all the emphasis was on the inside on the character.
The most important things that gave a result of this experimentation were: the historical panorama, the events of the age, especially the 2 world wars, the spread of education because it was in the XX century that the government in Europe, for the first time, tried to assist education according to which children should have the opportunity to read and write (also children coming from working class). Other important influences were new studied made by Freud (he was very important because he for the first time defined what was the mechanism of human mind), the influence of writer such as Proust, Dostoyevsky: they were probably the firsts to experiment the psychological novel, and the development of the radio and of the cinema.
All these factors lead to a new literary movement in the XX century which is called modernism (a new literary trend which is not only for fiction but also for poetry). Of course this term refers to artists who wanted to reproduce the complex reality of the age.
The most important feature is the mental process of the characters and the technique the artists invented to explore this process in the human mind is the stream of consciousness (a new technique). It is developed from the theories of two philosopher:
• William James who defined consciousness and he sad that our consciousness flown like a river (for this the name of stream of consciousness). He means that in our mind our mental process is always on, is always flowing;
• Henry Bergson with his new idea of inner time. He said that our interior perception of time is completely different from the clock time, our idea of time is not connected with clock time.
This technique of the stream of consciousness, of course it concerned an area of our mental process which is beyond communication. Our mental process doesn’t always arrive to our mind in a clear, logical way ready to be communicated. So the stream of consciousness wanted to explore that mental process which is beyond communication.
According to this there can be two different levels of consciousness:
• The Speech level which is pacific because it is the mental process which can be communicated;
• The Pre-Speech level which is the level of consciousness which is deeper in our consciousness and so it is not rationally controlled, it is not logically ordered.
This technique of the stream of consciousness uses different ways to communicate this. Among the devices used in the stream of consciousness there are some technique taken from the cinema (they are called cinematic techniques): for example the use of the slow-motion take. But the most important new device used by the stream of consciousness is the use of the interior monologue (the mental expression of a verbal process). It has some characteristics: first of all it lacks any logical form, ordered structure and a formal syntax, and the use of punctuation disappeared because the interior monologue wanted to reproduce this flowing of thoughts. It can have two different levels of narration:
• The interior monologue of the other self;
• The interior monologue of the inner self.