Time in Modernist Literature

Perception of time represents a major motif in modernist literature. Many works address the subjectivity of our experiences, including how we process and consider the passage of time. Due to the modernist and post-modernist emphasis on style and meaning over story, time becomes less and less an element of setting, and more a device that acts upon and interacts with the characters. As the idea of time changes, so does every conception about the past, present, and future. Knowledge of history is essential to human existence; it allows people to learn from mistakes and honor heroes and victories. Without the past, no one can comprehend the present, let alone imagine a future. Human existence depends on time for lessons, ideas, and ambition. Time provides us with objectivity; it tells us when something occurred. Perception of reality relies on time. Once time is modified beyond control chaos ensues, and existence itself becomes hopeless. Orwell's 1984 epitomizes this idea, as time and history are manipulated to emphasize the novel's themes of hopelessness and chaos in the dystopian society of Oceania. The Party's control of past, present and future, Winston's missing memories and search for the past through the...

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