The Sun Also Rises

In the 1920s, Franz Boas and his students in the social sciences challenged traditional Victorian beliefs and values in race, sexuality and gender roles in favor of cultural egalitarianism. Meanwhile in the arts and literature, Modernist poets, critics and novelists simultaneously challenged Victorian beliefs and values in manners, morals, beauty, sexuality and gender roles in favor of cultural liberation.

The following excerpt comes from Stanley Coben’s book Rebellion Against Victorianism: The Impetus for Cultural Change in 1920s America:

“George Henry Lorimer, appointed editor of the Post early in the 1920s, immediately recognized the potential for increasing sales, advertising, and response to advertising when he read for the first time a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He took a calculated risk and decided to publish tales about girls who drank, smoked, swore, wore tight and rather skimpy bathing suits, engaged in and enjoyed sexual adventures, and talked impudently to their parents. The audience for such stories almost certainly would purchase cosmetics. Lorimer’s speculation paid off. Advertisements illustrating how other girls could enjoy similar popularity blossomed in the columns and pages adjoining these stories. Then advertisements advising mothers on how to look younger and enjoy life in the fashion of their daughters appeared. Circulation rose. Soon other magazines aiming at the same market – such as the Ladies’ Home Journal, the Woman’s Home Companion, Liberty, the Metropolitan and the Delineator – tried to emulate this success. Fine writers, such as Sherwood Anderson, formerly considered both obscene and subversive now received invitations to submit manuscripts to mass-circulation magazines. Dreiser became a regular contributor to the Post, and that magazine even ran a series of Dreiser’s articles from the Soviet Union sympathetic to the Communist government. Dreiser also published numerous short stories in the once staid women’s magazines.

Malcolm Cowley exaggerated only slightly when he asserted that if Greenwich Village was dying as an outpost of lifestyles inimical to Victorianism, it was because:

“wherever one turned, Greenwich Village ideas were making their way; even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling their influence … It was dying because too many people insisted on living there. It was dying because women smoked cigarettes on the streets of the Bronx, drank gin cocktails in Omaha and had perfectly swell parties in Seattle and Middletown – in other words, because American business and the whole of middle-class America had been going Greenwich Village.”

Cowley declared that by the late 1920s, Smith College girls in New York were modeling themselves after the promiscuous Lady Brett in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and Lady Brett was nearly the antithesis of a Victorian woman of character.”

The 1957 movie The Sun Also Rises based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel begins by citing Ecclesiastes 1:3-5: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Ernest Hemingway was describing the break between the Lost Generation and the Victorian values of their parents.

“During the 1920s, the largest, liveliest, and perhaps the most talented group of novelists, poets, playwrights, and literary critics to that point in United States history skillfully exposed the same faults in American civilization emphasized by the academic intellectuals. Such influential novels as Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street and Babbitt, Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby contained social criticism which hardly different from that of Middletown or Coming of Age in Samoa. The novelists denounced American materialism, pressure for conformity, bigotry, shattered family life, sexual repression, fragmented society, and, in general, the inability of American civilization to fill its members’ needs or even to teach them what these were. Most of these themes could also be found in some of the period’s best poetry – such as T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Ezra Pound’s Huge Selwyn Mauberly – and plays – including Eugene O’Neil’s Marco Millions, Desire Under the Elms, and Strange Interlude.

In this literature and in other novels, stories, poems, and plays by these authors, readers encountered a pessimism about the possibility of improving what the writers disliked in American civilization; nor did the writers find any higher being at work in the chaos they described. In these respects, also, the attitudes of most literary intellectuals during the 1920s, resembled those which pervaded Middletown and Coming of Age in Samoa. Their works differed sharply from those of the genteel Victorian authors. Moreover in the 1920s, publishers, journal editors, and producers of plays sought the work of the critical intellectuals for prestige as well as for profits. Denunciations of books, stories, articles, and plays made by the few remaining genteel literary critics or the banning of this literature in Boston or elsewhere because of obscenity only insured more energetic praise from critics like H.L. Mencken and seemed to guarantee high sales.”

As well shall see, the libertarian H.L. Mencken towered over his contemporaries and set the tone of the culture war of the 1920s railing against the bigotry and philistine tastes of the boobosie and the backwardness of Fundamentalists. It was H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis who began the tradition of scorning the values and beliefs of all the “bigots” in small town and rural Middle America.

About Hunter Wallace 9620 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

11 Comments

  1. ” Ecclesiastes 1:3-5: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.”

    It’s ironic that he’d quote that, since the spiritual significance is probably lost on him.

    I also think others seem to be struggling with what you’re trying to do here. Ranging from criticizing your work for not placing enough blame on Jews, Masons or Boomers instead of Modernism. They don’t seem to realize that the modernism as it arose was seen as a tool that the elites but also the Jews could use to shape society to their vision. That the tool arose organically and upon seeing the effectiveness of the tool, it was promoted and used.

    The interesting thing is that even as far back as the 1920s, Bernays in his book Propaganda admits that the “New Propaganda” will only work as long as society stays connected regardless of technological innovations or people getting “used” to the technology. Whoever is pulling the strings seems to have forgotten that part and it is why people feel completely alienated from the mainstream in various ways and are starting to reject aspects of it. Their culture of arts and media is collapsing in the age of the internet despite their best efforts. They need a new playbook and the Jews of today aren’t as clever as the ones of yesteryear. They’re losing control of the narrative.

    Not to disparage them, but I think the day of the Boomer/ Silent Gen ruling class needs to be over and it needs to be over fast. Even my Boomer father was laughing when he was telling me some 80 something year old American Senator/Political figure was discussing the TikTok ban and sounded like he had no clue what he was talking about. Many of these old men came across as out of touch when they were reviewing cryptocurrency and its regulation a year ago too. I used to lament the passing of older, wise generations, but now I’m starting to think that every generation needs its time and then needs to step out of the way for the next.

    At least let the Gen Xers reinforce the dam before us Millennials take over!

    • I agree.

      The boomers’s stupidity is only matched by their callousness.

      Unfortunately they have also filled up the West with mongrels from all over the world. I do not quite understand why the backlash against has not yet been more vicious.

      I guess for that to happen, the economy needs to collapse first.

      Jesus, never in the history of mankind has one single generation created so much profiund chaos and destruction…

  2. I saw this movie many years ago as a child and found it incomprehensible. Purposeless, shiftless, people uncommitted to any goal or purpose beyond getting drunk and carnal pleasure. The novel of the same name on which it is based was published in 1926. Compare this book with another book published in 1925 called Mein Kampf. Not a novel, but a book about men who were purposeful, committed to saving and reconstructing great civilization instead of watching it collapse.

    • @Don…

      I agree with Hemingway’s evaluation, because, in the Olde South, the older folk were fond to say certain things. One of those was, ‘Idleness is The Devil’s workshoppe’.

      So, as we were discussing over recent days, there was this kind of value that Victorians greatly valued – that of purposefulness.

      Purposefulness used to be something so important, that numerous events were set up during the day of a child to impart to them that.

      Thus, if one were to rebel against Victorian mores one would certainly target purposefulness and, to do that, one would have to advocate Idleness, or, perhaps better said, ‘ennui’.

      This was not knew to modernity, however, because in previous centuries the aristocrats distinguished themselves by only engaging in activities that did not require them to sweat.

      Sweating, or the physical evidence of purposefulness was anathema to the 18th century aristocrat, leisure, and or idleness his validation.

      So, perhaps as well, we could also see such a thing as this as a rebellion of the Middle Class against what it feared was it’s it’s mediocre plight.

      Huey Long, the erstwhile governor of Louisiana, had a campaign slogan called,’ Every Man a King’.

      Part of the American Pursuit of life in the 20th century was dedicated to this – a man to buy his castle,a ranch house in the suburbs, and then go about collecting the better things of life, and one of those coveted was idleness.

      Throwing convention to the wayside, to clarify one’s identity against one’s parents goes on in many ways. One way which amuses me to see is how Alt-Right/Far Right kids I personally know, throw their Nazi hairstyles in their parents’ faces.

      My generation did that,too, only, instead of going Waffen SS, we adopt the styles of The Three Musketeers to drive our parents crazy!

      Amazing how just a tweak of the hair can achieve so much, vis-a-vis, identity.

  3. The need to “liberate” us from our plebian tastes often just leads to opening us up to accepting ugliness as beauty. Abstraction of any kind should be looked upon as what it really is: deconstruction. It’s not a promotion of what’s attractive, but turning what’s appealing about the particular subject inside out. In that way, deconstruction is very much like dissection. It takes what was beautiful as a whole, and then takes it apart and makes it strange or repellent.

    For example, I quite like Kandinsky, but I see his work as wonderfully strange, and not as a different form of beauty. Thankfully, most people don’t see abstract art as anything but crazy garbage only an unstable creative-type could vomit out of their diseased subconscious.

    For all the talk about the (very real) decline of art and music, it’s helpful to remember that most people merely accept the choices presented to them. As most of us automatically reject what we perceive as ugly, it’s important for people to seek out something more aesthetically appealing. I wasn’t exposed to Bach or Chopin as a kid, but instead increasingly emptyheaded pop or angrier rock as the years passed. I had to seek out classical by myself, so it was a longer process. Parents need to reject what’s lower and cruder in society in favor of what’s higher and transcendent, on behalf of their kids and their civilization.

    • Kandinsky is one thing but people like Jackson Pollock or the worst of the bunch because of his intellectual pretensions and far reach, Pablo Picasso are another. The Impressionists and others who followed their style were at least painting scenes from life itself, everything was instantly recognizable, but people like Pollock and Picasso achieved fame (or infamy) through producing sheer ugliness.

      In Picasso’s case he also mixed his Entartete Kunst with communist politics (showing his capitalist side, the hypocrite) while Jackson Pollock was just a dissipated alcoholic. His outrageous behavior brought fame to his “art” but not much money to him personally, his ultimate goal. Now, of course Pollock’s creations bring top dollar, more a reflection of the rapid degeneration of culture than some latent value suddenly found in his work.

      Tom Wolfe wrote all about the art world racket in The Painted Word (1975) and skewered them good. His From Bauhaus to Our House did the same thing to the world of modern architecture. Neither “Modern Art” nor “Modern Architecture” will withstand the acid test of time unlike beautiful cathedrals or even well done commercial buildings. Art is just a guy’s name anyway.

  4. She’s not good looking. We have better looking actresses now. We have had progress in certain areas since then.

  5. All this illustrates a fundamental truth about American society: it’s much too permissive, both socially and politically, and that’s why we find ourselves in our dire predicament. Now that we the sane are the dissidents in a society ruled by madness, we naturally cling to the First Amendment. However, without the laughable naivete of the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights we wouldn’t find ourselves we would not be where we are. Freedom of speech should be curtailed when its intent or effect is to create social malaise. There should not be freedom of religion for alien cults, especially one certain alien cult that shall go unnamed. Writers of decadent literature, and their cheerleaders as well, should be banished or imprisoned, as should their “artistic” and “architectural” counterparts.

    That having been said, I’m sure that even among the readers of as an unorthodox a publication as this one, most will disagree with this point of view, but that’s because nearly every American is a liberal. Even most members of the “far right”, “alt-right” and whatever other “right” have taken the essential ideas of liberalism—which many prefer to call “Enlightenment”—to heart. So let me be as clear as I can be: the “Enlightenment” is nothing but liberal garbage. If you want to create a nation that will endure through the centuries, as the Founders obviously wanted to, rather the “diversity” zoo their creation has devolved into, that nation must have one single identity, which is to say, one language, one civic creed, one religious faith, and one race. Whoever doesn’t fit into or doesn’t accept any aspect of that identity—especially if they do so openly—should be ostracized, pushed to emigrate, or otherwise gotten rid of.

    In short, America is all wrong. The United States is, in all likelihood, doomed. But if Americans ever get to found another nation, they had better do it on the realistic premises outlined above.

  6. At the top of the pyramid – which is a design for control – is Satan. Another visual is a ‘spectre.’ From wwaaaaayyy back … scumbag has been attacking us on every front. In every aspect of life and society. You’re taking a magnifying glass and zeroing in on ‘one’ aspect. How could Cony Island go from that to this? Well … just look up the arm ( the history ) of what our invisible enemy has been doing on ‘that’ front … ‘that’ aspect, for thousands of years, and it helps to understand why we need a PRAYING CHRISTIAN enlarged all white Confederacy 2.0 –

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/c/c6/SPECTRE_Logo.png/170px-SPECTRE_Logo.png

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