When the war finally ended, it was called the Great War, because it was thought that no such war would ever be fought again.
The next decades did nothing to break the pessimism that many felt about the world's future. The crash in the world financial markets that happened in 1929, the worldwide drought in 1930, conspired to create the Great Depression, a worldwide economic downturn that basically lasted until industry began gearing up for what would be called the Second World War. As a result, the 1930's was a decade of extreme pessimism, which was manifested in a number of ways. The arts produced "case studies, reportage, documentary photography, proletarian literature, and 'social problem' films" with the goal of "reconstruct[ing] the 'hidden' logic of an elusive social reality" (Veitch, xvii).
This is the time period in which Nathanael West made his literary mark. Jonathan Veitch makes note of the problems that critics have had in assigning West a particular place within the writing of that time, and American literature as a whole. Different critics described him, variously, as a "poet of darkness," "an apocalyptic writer," "a universal satirist," "a homegrown surrealist," and a "writer of the left." (Veitch xi, xvi). Some of these descriptions have definite contradictions with one another, but they all reflect different elements of the author's persona, and his work. ...