The world that we live in has evolved over centuries. The way people used to think a couple of hundred years ago is nowhere near the way people think now. The culture and the traditions vary from one country to another and every place is unique in its style. Movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth century were to remove the philosophies which were appreciated by people in sixteenth and seventeenth century. Time goes by and brings new things in front of us. Similarly world also brings new philosophies in front of us which are a result of the effect of the previous philosophies, governing styles, norms and traditions and social pressures which force people to act in a different way after having gone through the things they felt were lacking in the previous era (online-literature.com, 2011).
Modernism is a similar movement which was started in the latter part of the 19th century. The movement went on till the early part of the 20th century. This was a time during which world was advancing at a great rate; whether it was technology, industrialization, medicine, economics or social awareness. The people, who were part of this movement, believed that in such a rapidly changing world the cultures and norms of the world were still outdated and that everything needed to be done in a modern way in order to match the changes taking place. This change that they demanded was in the way people thought and worked. The way people lived, the way they would think about arts, the way they would think about their religion and the general philosophy which they would set as a guideline for their lives all came under criticism by the people supporting modernism.
In their hunt for a new philosophy, many people who supported modernism lost their interest in religion as they wanted to try a new way of life in which they did not have any limitations as they thought that the way their religious asked them to behave had become outdated. Modernism did bring about changes in human thought which diverted people towards progressing as a socially aware society. People became aware of their responsibilities while also becoming creators who would challenge themselves to improve the environment.
Modernism encouraged people to look for the reasons because of which their life was stagnant. People started re-assessing themselves in order to find new things which could improve their life. Modernists argued that people until now were living the way that they had been doing generations ago. Time evolved with new administrators at the helm of different regions but people kept on moving in circles. The style of their thinking in periods like Renaissance would change slightly but then people would revert to the simple way of life without much evident change.
Modernism, however, had its fair share of criticism as well. Many considered it to be root cause of trouble in the society. Modernism was seen as a disruption to the society which was working in a smooth way. People tend to become too liberated under the head of modernism and then they try to exercise movements which negate the authority. In many countries modernism took the form of poetry and arts as well where artists would convey their message through an abstract use of art (tate.org.uk, n.d.). Abstract art is a form which does not make the message to clear to the naked eye but if one looks deep into it then there are messages within which are analogous to what is happening in the society. This form of modernism is meant to revoke the population from a deep slumber and to ignite a sense of responsibility regarding what is happening. However, after World War 2, a stringent approach was adopted by the Autocratic governments against such artists. In response to the panic and unrest caused by the war, artists took their writing, poetry and art to protest against the rulers which caused a decline in the progression of art of all forms.
Where modernism did do a lot to initiate positivity in the society, it also led to some things which deteriorated the quality of the society in many ways. Self-realization, over thinking and analysis of the situation lead many to haywire paths. Rulers and people belonging to the ruling elite became more conscious of their ego which is not a positives sign of things to come. They became more involved in themselves and they would do things which would lead to self-glory rather than creating better vibes in the society. Motives were used to achieve inner satisfaction by the rulers; they would kill just to exercise their authority. The over thinking process of one would lead them to create new ways in which they could impose their rule just to satisfy their own esteem and ego. Power, greed and money are three things which when come into conscious could ruin the principles of any man and the rulers were no different.
Oscar Wilde provides a picture perfect of the way in which modernism affected the society negatively in his novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. A perfect story is described of a man who is someone else but wants to be acknowledged in a different way by the society than what the society thinks of him currently. Wilde uses the same character in three different roles and describes what modernism has done to the society.
A normal man is just like the millions stranded out there in this world but everyone wants to achieve something greater. Everyone wants to be popular and rich and most people would do anything to achieve this supremacy over others. The character described in the novel wants to achieve the same but he is torn between what he actually is and what he wants to become. The person is good at heart but to become an example in front of the society he wants to hide his inner desires which include sentiments like sensuality. He described wants to fulfill his desires but he does not want anyone to know of them. He marries an actress because of what she is on the stage to the world which leads to a broken relationship which shows that modernism made man desire things which were not real and when one went through a reality check, he would give up what he had because of the naivety with which he perceived things to be. He became so lost in his own beauty that he would do anything in order to preserve his image. He was ready to take down the world in order to fulfill his ego with his ever young youth.
The revolution through modernism led many people to self-destruction as they could not satisfy all their needs. The need to have more despite having all there is to have in this world is what left many feel empty. Desire for the opposite sex, fame, beauty and power forced people to follow the sinful path as this was the only way through which their needs could not survive in the modern world (Wilde, 1890).
The desire to achieve all that is to be achieved in this world leaves many confused which has been described by James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man. People want to have a religious inclination and they want to work for the upheaval of society but in order to achieve his own goals, one starts thinking of negative ways in which he would be able to achieve the aim of catering his wants. People now days are following a set pattern of life which is about studying, settling and working in a good place for the rest of their life. Modernism created this sense within them which was about what one wanted to do in life. Following a set pattern is easy, but following a path which is untested and undiscovered, is the main task. When a child is born, the family sets out the pattern of the kind of life that the child will spend based on their own experiences, religion and culture. Modernism wanted people to come out of this situation and wanted people to do what they were good at and what satisfied them the most in their lives (Joyce, 1916).
In today’s world many people say that one should follow his heart and then see what happens but there is a very low proportionate of people even today who would be ready to do it. These are exactly contrary to the kind of sentiments which people in that time of Revolution needed in order to discover life and to improve the society as a whole.
Like every era, the late 19th and early 29th century introduced something new like the philosophy of modernism in the society and like in every era, the philosophy had both its positive and negative effects on the society. Modernism helped people come out of the shell that they had been living in, it helped them broaden the horizons of their thinking but on the other hand it lead to some trends for which the society was too naive . Modernism was to create a healthy vibe and it did but it also caused some uprisings of ego which could turn the society. Examples from today’s world are present in front of everyone and history is there to be learnt from.
Joyce, James. A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. 1st ed. New York: Viking Press, 1964. Print.
Online-literature.com,. 'Modernism - Literature Periods & Movements'. N. p., 2014. Web. 27 Jun. 2014.
Tate.org.uk,. 'Modernism | Tate'. N. p., 2014. Web. 27 Jun. 2014.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture Of Dorian Gray. 1st ed. Luton: Andrews UK Ltd., 2010. Print.