Modernism comes from the cultural trends and changes in Western society during the late 19th and 20th century. It followed and was shaped by the horrors of World War II as well as the development of industrialization and the effects on the population. The short story “Monday or Tuesday” by Virginia Woolf is about heron and his view from above. “A Clean, Well-lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway is about and old man and two waiters in a café to symbolize the three stages of life. Both stories demonstrate the hallmarks of Modernist literature through their themes, literary devices and lack of structure. The authors use the modernist approach since it works better as compared to a more traditional approach.
Theme is an important factor in any literary work. Some of the typical themes that modernist literature deals with is the loss of meaning and hope in the modern world, loneliness and despair. At first the short story “A Clean, Well-lighted place” seems to be a story about nothing, however upon closer inspection the themes that stand out are loneliness and despair. Loneliness stands out because the deaf old man in this story has all the money in the world but still tried to commit suicide over the despair of confronting nothingness. He is alone, isolated and spends most of his time in a café drinking brandy. The young waiter sees no reason to attempt to commit suicide if one has money but in contrast the older waiter is more sympathetic and knows all about despair. In the short story “Monday or Tuesday” the heron is actually a lost soul that is pondering the true meaning of life. It doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are being, lost is a feeling that affects all walks of life.
In order to move away from realism modernist writers made use of many literary devices such as juxtaposition, comparison and symbols. To make the story more interesting Ernest Hemingway uses several symbols. The setting of the story is the café which is a symbol of a safe place away from the chaos of the outside world. The old man’s deafness is a symbol of his separation from the world and “sitting in shadow” represents his loneliness and disconnect from society. The old and young waiters are an example of juxtaposition because the young waiter does not understand the old man’s despair over nothingness whereas the old waiter understands what the old man is going through. In the story “Monday or Tuesday” the symbols are difficult to see right away. The clock is a symbol of the tyranny of time in our lives and how we let time be the deciding factor if almost everything in our lives. Another symbol is the heron and this symbolizes lost souls of humans and when the heron flies around it means that everyone is searching for peace. There is use of juxtaposition in “Monday or Tuesday” for example the author uses two examples of juxtaposition right beside each other when she states “The sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains.”