Modern Age: Chief Characteristics
The end of the Victorian era is the beginning of modern age. The first half of the 20th century is very important in the history of English literature. It marks a clear departure from the compromise and stability of the Victorian period. The following are the important characteristics of the modern age:
1. Interrogation and Anxiety: The 20th century is known as the age of interrogation and anxiety. In this century the scientific revolution shook man's faith in the authority of religion and church. The social, moral, political and economic scenario was changing fast. People were not ready to accept anything without testing it on the touchstone of reason. Modern industrial and technical progress gave birth to the spirit of competition. It increased frustration, anxiety and cynicism. The literature of this period reflects all these tendencies.
2. Art's for Life's Sake: In the modern age the doctrine of art for art's sake was rejected. The doctrine of art for life's sake was established. In this field the contribution of Shaw, H.G. Wells and Kipling is memorable.
3. Growing Interest in the Poor and the Working Classes: The beginning of the 20th century marked the end of the supremacy of the middle classes. The poor were no more helpless creatures. They posed a great challenge to the social conscience. They became the raw material of realistic novel and drama. Thus this age shows the growing interest of people in the poor and the working classes.
4. Impact of Socio-Economic Conditions on Literature: The economic and social changes influenced the 20th century literature. The rapid industrial development changed social and economic scenario. The landed aristocracy and agricultural labourer were in great trouble. Young villagers began to migrate to industrial towns. There was complete break up of rural way of life. The urbanization changed the pattern of social relationship. Money became a key factor in all-human relationship. Economists raised their voice against poverty. The changed pattern of social behaviour influenced literature. Marxism and socialism came into existence and they influenced the authors of the period.
5. Psychology and Literature: In the modern age new psychological researches influenced literature. Freudian theory became very popular. The rational view of sex relationship was evolved. D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and many others were influenced by new researches in psychology and sex.
6. The Impact of Two world wars: We can notice the impact of two world wars on literature of modern age. After the First World War depression, want and unemployment increased. The League of Nations was set up to establish world peace. In spite of this attempt the Second World War broke out. England also suffered a great loss. After that a large number of anti-war books were written. These books exposed the futility and hollowness of war.
7. The Influence of Radio and Cinema: In the modern age radio and cinema showed great impact on literature. The radio brought literature into the home. It opened an entirely new field for authors. Cinema also played an important role. The invention of locomotive and telegraph, rapid and cheap intercommunication resulted in an intellectual revolution. Printing was multiplied and cheapened.
8. Conclusion: This is the new milieu in which modern literature has been produced. It is the literature of challenge and of the re-construction of new values. It was an exciting age for writers.