The Modern Era. Alienation and Desperation in Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" and Edward Hopper's "Automat"

Term Paper, 2014

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

A. Introduction: The Alienation and Desperation of the Individual in the Modern Era

B. The Modern Era

C. Automat by Edward Hopper
I. Content
II. Modern Features in Automat

D. "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound
I. Ezra Pound's Key Ideas of Imagism
II. Modern Features in Ezra Pound's Poem

E. Conclusion: Desperation and Alienation in the Modern Period

F. Works Cited

A. Introduction: The Alienation and Desperation of the Individual in the Modern Era

In the Modern period, the American lifestyle is growing and developing gradually. With the improvement of the railroad system, such as the use of steel rails instead of iron rails, everything in life is moving faster. Furthermore, America's need for workers combined with cheaper train and steam ship tick­ets have caused a new wave of mass immigration. Although life in America seems appealing, these positive aspects are overshadowed by hard times. Especially after the two World Wars, which caused a lot of pain and death, the world is fragmented and the devastation and alienation of people, both outer an inner devastation, has started to take place. Furthermore, through industri­alization and mass production, human beings are in a continuous hurry and there is restlessness. Due to the fact that people always seem to be in a rush, life is chaotic and fragmented.

The alienation and desperation of the individual in the Modern era can be seen in Edward Hopper's painting Automat, which was published in 1927, and in the poem "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound from 1916. There­fore, this term paper will illustrate the characteristics of the Modern Era, espe­cially in terms of literature, by analyzing and comparing the painting and the poem.

B. The Modern Era

This chapter of the term paper will focus on the main historical events that have caused the transition to the Modern period and their effects on Ameri­can culture and literature. With the turn of the century, America starts to change gradually because it is the age of discovery and invention. Further­more, various wars and other historical events, such as The Great Depression in the 1920s, not only lead to shifts in the lives of American people, but also in literature and arts.

One of the first major events was the American Civil War between the North and the South from 1861 and 1865, which solved the conflict between the Northern and Southern states with the end of slavery and uniting the country, but also "helped to create what we now recognize as the modern American nation" (Morley 11). Further developments were urbanization and accelerating industrialization. As a result, America, step by step, became a global power and its cities started to grow and become Metropolises. Addi­tionally, architectural marvels like the skyscrapers start to appear from 1910 onwards and buildings like the iconic Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building symbolize "[America's] reputation as one of the richest nations in the world" (11). Because of the growing cities, the belief in finding jobs and a better life, America, in that period, was a magnet for people from all over the world.

However, the 20th century also had its negative sides. The two World Wars (1914-1918; 1939-1945) and the Great Depression are three major events that had an enormous impact on the lives of the American population. This can be seen in the individual's self-doubt and one's view on the world as a fragmented and not united place with instability. Because the world changes quickly, literature and art have to change as well. For instance, au­thors like Eliot, Hulme and Pound, who "saw themselves as representatives of the beginning of a new century, a century that was itself fascinated by its own modernity", were responsible for revolutions in literature (Beasley 19). Be­cause of the fact that it is the age of discovery and invention, writers also in­vent their own style of writing, as Beasley argues "that traditional poetic forms and themes could no longer encapsulate the experience of the modern world," and further mentions "the use of free verse and [...] [the] expansion of the subject matter of poetry" (1). After showing the historical background and some of the characteristics of the Modern era, the following chapters will deal with the analysis of two important Modern works.

C. Automat by Edward Hopper

For a greater understanding of Edward Hopper's Painting Automat (1927) a closer look on his life and the characteristics of his paintings in general is a helpful starting place. If one analyzes Hopper's paintings, one recognizes two outstanding characteristics: silence and simplification. Hence, there are also two questions to answer: Why are silence and simplification special features and how are they achieved. To answer the first question, a brief biographical introduction or rather a characterization is mandatory, whereas the answer to the second question becomes clear later in this chapter.

Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 - May 15, 1967) can be described as a very withdrawn and taciturn character, which is reflected in his work. For in­stance, "[i]n social situations, Hopper typically sat in a corner, talking quietly with someone, while Jo moved about, engaging others" (Wells 10). Hopper did not like to talk about his work or himself and succeeded in "[resisting] en­treaties from every side" (ibid.). He was a reserved character and did not have much to say. Therefore, painting seemed superior to writing and "[through­out a long career that begun when he left art school in 1906, and ended with his death more than sixty years later, Hopper harbored a deep distrust in the reliability of words" (ibid.).

I. Content

Edward Hopper's painting Automat, which was published in 1927, can be seen as a typical painting from the Modern period because it shows the role of the individuals and their relationships to the world at that time. Therefore, this part of Chapter C will illustrate the painting's structure and its particular elements to provide a basis for the analysis of modern elements later on. Au­tomat "recalls a seventeenth-century Dutch painting, Jan Vermeer's A Girl


Excerpt out of 14 pages


The Modern Era. Alienation and Desperation in Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" and Edward Hopper's "Automat"
University of Duisburg-Essen  (Fakultät Anglistik)
American Literature
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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American, American Literature, Literature, Literatur, Edward Hopper, Ezra Pound, In a Station of the Metro, Automat, Painting, Comparison, Alienation, Desperation, World War, Modern Era
Quote paper
Tim Ballschmiede (Author), 2014, The Modern Era. Alienation and Desperation in Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" and Edward Hopper's "Automat", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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