Even though the ‘rejection of the past’ and ‘belief in the process of change’ do remain the key driving forces of modernism, the question remains whether individuality, originality and self-expression do remain the copyrighted material of the modernist movement. In doing so, however, do they really have been able to tear away from the past as is suggested by Cruickshank’s definition?
In the early twentieth century, America and American literature underwent a sea-change in terms of social, cultural, and political ideology. As science took quantum leaps with the Theory of Relativity, and technology broke new barriers with the advent of the ‘talkies’; literature, by default became the interpreter of the lexicology of a social class experiencing a metamorphosis. The term Modernism became a defense mechanism to ward off the illustrious pains of realism and the ostentatious extravagance of the Victorians. Literature was now meant to bridge the intellectual gap between art and society; both being mirror images of each other; while still maintaining a sense of individualism.
The Earthquake of 1906 or ‘The Great Shake’ as it was known then, stripped the collective conscience of the frills and frivolity of living. People were led to turn to basic living and the stark reality of the calamity left everyone bare of any artificiality, which reflected in their thought-process, behavior, and language. The pain of existence usurped the need for affectations. The after-effects of Industrialization and the repercussions of the Great Depression led to a greater divide among the social classes with all the known and expected consequences of an economic downturn. Even though the story Odour of the Chrysanthemums was written much before the ‘Black Tuesday’ dawned, however, it closely etches out the imminent picture of the lull before the proverbial storm.
According to H.G