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"The Lost Generation": Fitzgerald and Hemingway

Updated on April 12, 2018

After the First World War a new generation of authors was created. They were called “the lost generation” because of what the young men of America had gone through in the war. The effects after the war were devastating to these young men. They had experienced things like no other and were truly traumatized by what they went through. The men who came back that survived the war were very different people because of their experience. They lost friends, family and people who they became close to in their platoons. Death was everywhere and you could not escape that part of the war when you were there. Two authors who fall under “the lost generation” term are Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In their stories they depict traits of the lost generation. “The Rich Boy” by Fitzgerald and “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway are great examples of “the lost generation” type of authors.

Shown in their works, they show what it was like to be a veteran of the First World War. In both “Hills like White Elephants” and “The Rich Boy” the men in the story show little emotion and hide their problems with alcohol. The reoccurring theme in both stories is emptiness. In Fitzgerald’s story “The Rich Boy” he says “unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are…”(Fitzgerald). In the story he says this line and he means that you don’t know someone else unless you are like them. No one except for the men who experienced the war knows what it was like to be in the war. It was brutal and messed up a lot of young men up for life. In the story the rich boy, Anson shows many different emotions. He only cares about himself and show no set goals. Also Anson has no established values or goals in life and the women can tell. He shows many key emotions of someone rich from the lost generation. Anson shows little emotions for Paula, so she finds someone else. He shows how empty and unsatisfied he is with his life. Anson shows the main theme in the story which is emptiness after Paula leaves. Fitzgerald then shows more qualities of the lost generation by Anson drinking all the time to hide stress and sadness. “Anson filled himself with whiskey that morning, and going to the office, carried on his work without a break…”(Fitzgerald). A lot of the survivor of the war including Hemingway and Fitzgerald would drink a lot to hide their emptiness caused by all the death in the war. There was a lot of traumatizing things they saw which cause great mental problems for the soldiers.

In the work “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway he shows characteristics of a soldier post war and the effects. The men seemed to not care about the quality of their life and how one is responsible for the well-being of their own life. They were empty and didn’t care about much besides partying and drinking all night. They didn’t have a desire to life with someone but found happiness through materialistic wealth. In the story Hemingway writes “They look like white elephants,” she said. “I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer. “No, you wouldn’t have.”I might have,” the man said.”(Hemingway). The man doesn’t seem interested to talk with the women. Hemingway shows the man is self- involved. He wants the women to abort the baby even though they don’t say it that is what he is talking about. A characteristic of the lost generation is selfish and empty. The man is worried about the baby ruining his life.

Lastly another trait that describes the lost generation is alcoholism. The men would drink a lot of alcohol to numb the pain they once felt. They didn’t like reality so they choose to block out reality when they were drunk. They would even drink all day. This generation loved to party as well because that what made them happy and forget their past. For example in Hills like White Elephants the man orders drinks on the train.

"It's pretty hot," the man said.

"Let's drink beer."

"Dos cervezas," the man said into the curtain.

"Big ones?" a woman asked from the doorway.

"Yes. Two big ones."

The man wants to get drunk to numb reality while his girlfriend talks about their unborn child. The man drinks instead and wants her to abort the baby. He doesn’t care about the situation he is in because he is drinking. He basically is trying to drink his problems away. Another example is in Fitzgerald’s The Rich Boy, “Anson filled himself with whiskey that morning”.(Fitzgerald) This line shows that people similar to Hemingway and Fitzgerald who were known as the lost generation would drink to numb pain because that is all they knew. There extreme drinking was to hide all the suffering and pain they went through in the war. In their stories they used characters that would drink a lot just like they did.

The lost generation authors used their own life experiences to create their stories and characters. In Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s stories, their characters usually drank a lot to hide their problems. Also the characters were empty on the inside and didn’t have any expected goals in life. They also were selfish people who found happiness through drinking or materialistic wealth. Finally they showed through their stories what it was like to be part of the lost generation.

Works Cited

1. the rich boy Fitzgerald

2. hemingway hills like white elephants

3. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Rich Boy. New York: Scribner, 1926. Print.

4. Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. New York: Scribner. Print.

Group of people from the lost generation
Group of people from the lost generation


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