The Age of Anxiety
The 20th century is called the age of Anxiety or the age of crisis. In this period the mentality of Europe changes. The most important event of this century is the world war one, that caused more deaths than all previous wars put together.
Also, in this period many scientific theories destroyed many centuries of beliefs.
J. Frazer, an anthropologist, wrote “the golden bough” about many social beliefs of very old tradition. He demonstrates that the most important European religion rites are based on rites of primitive tribes, like Easter. In fact, the most important festivities of monotheistic religion are in the spring, like the primitive tribes’ rites.
Then Darwin, a famous scientist, wrote “the origin of species” about the origin of the human being. At that time people believed that Adam and Eve were our ancestor, but Darwin, scientifically, proved that a monkey was our progenitor.
In this period, we have also many definitions about man and the human being.
Freud, the father of the psychoanalysis, defines man as a victim of his instincts.
Russell said that man was a random arrangement of atoms.
Marx said that man was the alienated product of social and economic forces.
Other events of this period are:
- The Dissolution of many families because the war;
- Women took the place of men;
- The participation of many women to the war;
- The birth of the feminist movement of Suffragettes;
- The Russian Revolution, inspired by the birth of the Socialism and the theories of Marx;
- The Birth of the Mass Society, in which man lost his individuality;
- The fragmentation of the self;
- The impossibility to communicate.
In literature are introduced new narrative techniques. In fact, in a period of war, the idea of time changes and in the present life there is past life and all future expectations. So there is not just a chronological idea about time, but it is like a linear sequence of events, and this new conception is influenced by the philosopher Bergson.
Also, there is the narrowing and the widening of time. Joyce in "Ulysses" used a time widening, that is to say, the inner time is dilated than the outside time.
Another technique used in this period is the stream of consciousness, a train of thoughts that arrive concurrently at our mind, without a grammatical and a rational control. Also, the stream of consciousness comes from the interior monologue, but because it represents the real language of our mind, it developed in a different way, without a grammatical and a rational control.
Another technique is the Epiphany: it is a sudden revelation, thanks an apparent meaningless (casual) event that gives the solution to a problem.