Transforming Military Rejection into Modernist Tragedy and Symbolism
These three authors, although compulsively writing out of a distress engendered by their “mobilization wounds,” learned by the time of writing their twenties masterpieces to submerge and transfigure this pain so as not to embarrass themselves with the revelation of their sense of inadequacy. All three had produced previous texts that openly address Anglo characters' humiliations in the military and so come off as bitter. The high modernism of Gatsby, Sun, A Farewell to Arms, and Sound, with its symbolism and its sense of tragedy (as opposed to bitterness), is a result of these authors developing the devices that allow them to disguise their mobilization traumas and thus to continue to exorcise them, but now obliquely. In Hemingway's and Faulkner's novels, “objective” sexual obstacles (injury, incest taboo) stand in for the military rejection that emasculated these Anglo authors, disguising and transfiguring it. Hemingway and Faulkner dignified the suffering of their Anglo alter egos by making their true loves impossible; Fitzgerald's alternative strategy for dignifying his sense of rejection was to split himself between two alter egos — one Anglo American and one ethnic American — and to give the experience of social rejection to a tragic character based only minimally on himself, namely, Gatsby.
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