How the Lost Generation Works

Characteristics of the Lost Generation

The members of the Lost Generation were born at the turn of the 20th century, when the world was changing at a rapid pace. The automobile was making its mark on society, becoming a popular mode of transportation. The Wright Brothers took the first airplane flight. Sigmund Freud released his groundbreaking work, "The Interpretation of Dreams."

As this generation was coming of age, millions of immigrants poured into the United States, searching for a better life. With the competition for jobs and ever-increasing class distinction, the members of the Lost Generation became independent and self-sufficient, not looking to their elders for guidance.

World War I had a tremendous influence on this generation. It lasted many years, and by the time it had ended, millions of men had been affected by the horrors of battle, losing a sense of the values their parents had instilled in them. War had forced this generation to grow up quickly, and for those who'd spent years in the trenches, war was all that they really knew. After the soldiers returned home, governments started ignoring their heroes, which caused the veterans to become quickly disillusioned with government.

In fact, this generation became skeptical of all authority, especially now that their parents were pushing for Prohibition. After the war, the Lost Generation started exploring its own set of values, ones that clearly went against what their elders had already established. Through its rebellion, the Lost Generation came up with its own social mores that gave rise to the Roaring '20s, with its gangsters, speakeasies and hedonism. This self-indulgent spree came crashing to a halt when the stock market crashed in 1929, leaving this generation to navigate the Great Depression during what would be the high point of their careers.

Members of the Lost Generation were also nomadic. Many who had been to war no longer felt the need to return home, instead flocking to cities and even to Europe. Paris became one of the biggest outposts for expatriates, and it became a center for literary achievement of the day.

Let's take a look at some of these writers and how they captured the spirit of a generation.