What seems most youthful about BLAST is the way the articles are written and typed up. The CURSE and BLESS sections have a random style that literally floats along the page with no apparent order. This may have been a way to keep the interest of the reader, but it seems more likely that it was an illustration of how youth can think. Though the sentences have no apparent order and often weird structure, they have a witty tone that is amusing. Sentences like, “BLESS this HESSIAN (or SILESIAN) EXPERT correcting the grotesque anachronisms of our physique” on page 25 are humorous considering all that people go through to calm their natural beauty into a false one. The most youthful statements though are in the “Manifesto” article, “We start from opposite statements of a chosen world. Set up violent structure of adolescent clearness between two extremes. We discharge ourselves on both sides. We fight first on one side, then the other, but always for the SAME cause, which is neither side, or both sides and ours.” (30). This shows the unrest, but tenacity of youth. They do not want their thoughts to be put in a box of typicality, so they synthesize the boxes.
T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” expresses a preoccupation with the passing of time and the events that–ostensibly–fill it. The details and specificity which the narrator relates form a profusion of incoming data and information, and in these the modern individual struggles to find meaning. This can be seen in the lines “And time yet for a hundred indecisions, / And for a hundred visions and revisions” (32-33). Youth’s transformation into maturity involves some kind of growth and progress, yet these things are precisely those which it is most difficult for the narrator to get a sense of.
Ideas in the flow of the “song” are ambiguous and slippery, and the momentous and the trivial intermingle in a way exemplified by the strange phrase, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” (122). These words illustrate the difficulty one finds in modern times when trying to decide which questions, challenges, and even basic aspects of life are important, and how one should invest in each of them emotionally–a theme particularly relevant to youth, as young people are most actively and of necessity involved in forming their own views about what is important and making connections between their world and their identities.
James Joyce’s “Eveline” and Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” both share a gloomy tone and address the similar theme of isolation. Eveline experiences many of the same emotions as rider on the metro would. While Eveline yearns to “explore another life with Frank” (2223), she is struck by feelings of melancholy for her old family life. Someone waiting at the metro station is likely traveling somewhere, which is usually an exciting affair, yet he or she cannot seem to find any joy in the activity. These sensations set the vapid scene of each piece. The “petals on a wet, black bough” (Pound) is representative of this notion of fading happiness as people, like all things in life, are eventually lost.
Both characters are disconnected from the world in which they live. The metro would likely be buzzing with a multitude of people and subways, but it still very easy to feel alone. The bustling people look more like an “apparition” (Pound). They are all so isolated from one another that all the metro-goers seem more like ghosts. Eveline is in a similar state of limbo as she dreams of her future and reminisces about her past. She remembers happier times when “the children of the avenue used to play together in that field” (2222) and wishes to return to her past. Joyce is hinting at one of the prevailing themes of modernity: alienation. Similarly, the advent of advanced technology, such as the subway system, evokes sadness and a longing for a simpler time.
In Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach and Culture and Anarchy, he brings to light central themes of modernity in the Victorian era, including industrialization, strict class divisions, and ardent capitalism, while arguing for ways to counteract them in order to lead more virtuous lives. The post-Enlightenment period of the second half of the nineteenth was wrought with this idea of being self-aware of the current, progressive time, while also feeling somewhat detached. Dover Beach epitomizes modernity in that it uses the ocean to symbolize the pre-modern world with “its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” (1562) and contrasts it with the uncertain, modern world. This new world is “swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight” as the people of the time do not understand, nor can they keep up with it. With the advent of science, there is less sacredness present in life and in culture. However, exciting the new world may seem with all its technological advances and urbanization of the cities, it “[lies] before us like a land of dreams” (1562) because it is only a dream. Righteousness and the common good have been lost.
The Industrial Revolution was highly responsible for the Victorian era’s “bondage to machinery…[and] proneness to value machinery as an end to itself” (1597). Arnold holds this obsession with machines responsible for a loss of morals and the ever present alienation found during his time. He finds himself at odds with his current predicament and finds himself yearning for the enchanting, old days, where there a desire to “leave the world better and happier than we found it” (1596). Along with industrialization yields capitalism; this has the effect of causing class warfare among the aristocracy, middle, and working classes. Technology is not inherently evil, but it can make people evil. When there is so much materialism and superficiality in society, it is easy to forget that society is strong only when everyone is accounted for. Arnold claims that the current state of things is detrimental to society, as people are not concerned with the welfare of the masses.
Matthew Arnold does not seem to be very enthusiastic about technological progression. To him, the new, modern, world is confusing and possibly intimidating. In “Dover Beach,” he laments the diminishing “Sea of Faith” (1562), and can hear its “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” (1562). The confusion he goes on to mention in “Culture and Anarchy” may also be related to this loss of faith, hinting that people may be wondering what they should believe in.
In “Culture and Anarchy,” Arnold seems to feel as though new machinery goes against the natural order of things when he says, “This contravention of the natural order has produced, as such contravention always must produce, a certain confusion and false movement, of which we are now beginning to feel, in almost every direction, the inconvenience” (1601). He feels as though everything is falling to confusion, and goes on to suggest: “We can only get [order and authority] by going back upon the actual instincts and forces which rule our life…” (1601)
Matthew Arnold discusses modernity in both his poem “Dover Beach” and in the selections from “Culture and Anarchy”. For Arnold, the modern world represents confusion. He knows that the world is transforming before his eyes and attempts to come to terms with this new world. In the last paragraph of “Dover Beach”, Arnold describes the world as “a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath neither joy, nor love, nor light, no certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; and we are here as on a darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night” (lines 30-38). Arnold does not know what to make of this new world. There are good and bad qualities to it and he does not know whether it will remain this way or instead take a turn for the better or worse. Arnold’s confusion is not just with the world around him but with the thoughts in his own mind. The world around him is changing and Arnold knows that he too will change, both as a result of this and because of life’s natural cycles. Arnold wants to change for the better. He fears losing his artistic mindset and becoming another member of the “ignorant armies”. The solution to the current state of disarray that Arnold offers in the poem is to stay true to his love and accept the world for the both the beauty and sadness it contains.
Arnold’s wording is more direct in “Culture and Anarchy”. He states at the end of “from Hebraism and Hellenism” that “Everywhere we see the beginnings of confusion, and we want a clue to some sound order and authority. This we can only get by going back upon the actual instincts and forces which rule our life, seeing them as they really are, connecting them with other instincts and forces, and enlarging our whole view and rule of life”. (page 1601) This statement represents a longing for the past. He knows that it will not be fulfilled, however, because change can’t be reversed. Instead he calls for a return of some of the earlier values that have been overlooked in the fast-paced modern life. He describes these values as “sweetness and light” The law of light requires seeing things as they actually are and putting your energy into life’s best nature. This is the solution that Arnold offers to modernity. He wants to preserve what is beautiful, such as art. This is trying to prevent the mechanization of the world which he had begun to see.
Modernity is the condition of the Western culture since Empire and Capitalism which came about in the 19th century during the industrial revolution. It was marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions. During this period there was mass production of commodified good, rise in prominence of reason and science, rise in literacy and industrialized print technology,and a rise in commerce which caused an increase in personal wealth. Due to these things there was uniformity and loss of uniqueness, there was a crisis in faith, a larger reading public, and a democratization that challenged aristocratic order.
In “Dover Beach” Matthew Arnold speaks about this crisis of faith seen in the Victorian period when he says “The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, retreating, to the breath of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world.”
In “Culture and Anarchy” we see this move happening to this idea of nation-state and the importance of everyone unifying for the better good of the whole when he says “…what if we tried to rise above the idea of class to the idea of the whole community, the State, and to find our centre of light and authority there?…By our everyday selves, however, we are separate, personal, at war…By our best self we are united, impersonal, at harmony. We are in no peril from giving authority to this, because it is the truest friend we all of us can have; and when anarchy is a danger to us, to this authority we may turn with sure trust.”
The only explicit references to the war while it is happening in the novel are in parenthetical references which give the impression that they have been added as an afterthought, simply for the necessity of accounting for the absence of a few major characters. When the third part of To The Lighthouse is so consumed with explaining and recovering from the absence of Mrs. Ramsay, for example, why is it here that only a single sentence is devoted to her?
And regarding Andrew, the only sentence he gets is this one, “[A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous]“, and this seems to be getting at the idea that his death was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, which it is, if the novel is considered the grand scheme; we are led to believe that the action that takes place on the island after the war would have been hardly different whether Andrew had lived or died. This is why he is mentioned in an offhand way, in the middle of the parenthetical aside, merely as a concession to the reader who might have been wondering about him.
The whole section “Time Passes” borders on rudeness in the way that it focuses on an abandoned house, and a fairly insignificant housekeeper, instead of the Great War. Just as the world comes to terms with its horrible modernness during the war, the house comes to terms with its climate and the environment; the books grow moist and moldy with the salty sea air, and the shawl which had covered the skull on the wall of the children’s bedroom slowly begins to come untied. However, this all happens beyond the knowledge of those who live there, as if the home which had treated them well in the first section of the novel has suddenly become rotted to its core in the third, with only the deaths of the Ramsay characters to account for the change.
While reading Arnold’s Dover Beach, the one part of them poem that really caught my was the third stanza. It starts off with the line, “The Sea of Faith”. Immediately it made think about Professor Drouin mentioning a crisis of faith during that time. The stanza goes on with “Was once too, at the full, and round earth’s shore/ Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled/ But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,/ Retreating to the breath”. The rest of the stanza just enforces my thought of this stanza being about the crisis of faith.
I also caught a glimpse of this same notion of faith in Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy. A couple of lines in particular that I found were “the anarchical tendency in our worship of freedom in and for itself, of our superstitious faith, as I say, in machinery, is becoming very manifest”. Which I read as people putting their faith in machinery, which Arnold believes they shouldn’t be because as Arnold says, “he who works for machinery, he who works hatred, works only for confusion”. This quote plus many of other mentioned things, Arnold believes tends to anarchy.
In Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold combines the notions of romantic love and modernity, in order to contrast them. One point here where Arnold engages with modernity is in the last stanza, where he addresses his love directly, and laments that the “grating roar” that Sophocles once heard can only be heard now in retreat.
This theme comes up again in Culture and Anarchy, where Arnold discusses the lack of Hellenic spirit within the British people. It is this exact Hellenic spirit which Sophocles heard, that reminded him of the “ebb and flow / Of human misery”. The sound of the roaring surf, otherwise known as the sweetness and light sought by Arnold, is missing from the British national scene, having been replaced by a neo-constitutionalist drive towards every British man doing what he pleases, which Arnold views as contrary to British national interest. Herein lies the modernity that Arnold thinks Britain is crashing into; it is a loss of a spirit that created literature in the past, and that pointed humanity in the proper direction once before, in ancient times. To prevent this, Arnold says “let us be true / To one another”, and whether this is an explicit reference to his love in the poem or to his common British citizen is rightly ambiguous.