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Alienation (The Lost Generation #AtoZChallenge)

The picture acts as a drop cap for the text. Purple letter A with a laurel wreath, representing the A to Z Challenge blogging event. Text below the logo says 'Blogging from A to Z April Challenge' and 'a-to-zchallenge.com'

The relationship between the Lost Generation and WWI is complex and defining.. The Great War was the watershed between the old and the new world, and the Lost Generation was cast right in the middle.

The generation born between 1883 and 1910 received an education that prepared them to live in a Victorian world. But they only glimpsed that world and were soon thrown into the Great War’s battlefields, with its horrors, destruction, and advanced technology.
When the war was over, they thought they would go back to ‘normal’ life. Everyone said they would go back to ‘normal’ life.

But there was no going back.
The world where they landed was not the world they knew. What they had known was now the ‘old world’. They were living in an unknown ‘new world’. Besides, they were not the people who left that old, familiar world behind.
They had seen terrible things that no one ever imagined. They had witnessed and felt, on their skin, the dehumanisation of the industrial war. They had wondered why this should happen to them and maybe thought they would find an answer when they got back home.

But they didn’t.

The world they found didn’t make sense after the carnage, after the death, after the destruction, after the hate.

There were no answers.

Alienation (The Lost Generation #AtoZChallenge) The relationship between the Lost Generation and WWI is complex and defining. From it comes the sense of alienation characteristic of this group #WWI #1920s Click To Tweet

Demobilisation: the watershed

Pinterest Pin. The title reads, "The Lost Generation - Alienation". The black-and-white picture depicts a crowd of WWI soldiers sitting in a field, waiting for their denomination at the end of the Great War. The blog addresses the complex relationship between the Lost Generation and WWI.

Strange as it may sound, demobilisation was a moment of disconnect for all the people back from the front.
For almost five years, they had lived under attack. They had become accustomed to the emergency of the trenches. They had created a new family with their comrades, who took the place of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, even wives. In the trenches, how men related to each other was totally different from how they would act at home. Vicinity created a special intimacy. Every one of them depended on the other in a factual but also emotional and even psychological way.
In the environment of war, these men and women had found a new world where they were useful to each other.

Demobilisation destoyed this. Even when soldiers and nurses returned to their homeland together, what had bonded them was gone. The human relationships created by the deadly war environment were impossible to maintain in a peaceful world because it had its own rules and acceptable norms.

It felt surreal and unlikely – unreal, even.

Here, the disconnect happened.

Unwilling to accept this world that wanted to be like it was before, as if their sacrifice had been for nothing, as if they had fought and died on the battlefields and it didn’t matter because everyone pretended nothing had changed, this generation looked for new meaning and new purposes – and found none.

They were told they were back, but in fact, they knew the world had changed while they fought on the battlefields, and it would never be the same again. The world they had been prepared to live in had disappeared before they had a chance to experience it, and they knew nothing of the new world they lived in.

Everything was moving, everything was changing, and nobody knew what it would be like once things settled.

Maybe they would never settle.

The Lost Generation decided they didn’t care.

A photo of a group of people, men and women, celebrating the end of the Great War in the streets of London on 11 November 1918. They raise their hands and laugh and hold up national flags. 
Credits: Getty Images

So these young people who wanted an answer and could not get it, who looked for a sense and meaning and did not find it, who wanted a future but didn’t have a solid ground on which to build it, decided they didn’t care. They didn’t care to carry on. They didn’t care to rebuild the world that war had destroyed. They didn’t care to make the effort and build a future. They decided to live in the present because they knew they had that. To get as much fun as they could while they could. They totally disconnected.


RESOURCES

International Encyclopedia of the First World War – Post-war Societies
Mail Online – A very bitter victory: Returning WWI soldiers’ hatred for the leaders who sent them to die


Horizontal banner for the book "The Great War". On the left-hand side is the photo of a group of soldiers standing in a WWI trench. A Yellow button reads, "Go to Shop". On the right-hand side is a picture of a stake of two books, of which only the spine is visible, and the cover of a book standing upright, with the same group of soldiers standing in the trench. The stake of books stands against an olive green background. A big title in yellow reads "The Great War", and a smaller text reads "The updated ebook".

26 Comments

  • Anne Young
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 02:25

    An incredibly challenging time with so many suffering from trauma, both phyical and mental

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:07

      VEry true. But I’m fascinated with it because they manage to morph their confusion into something so new that only decades later would become common.

  • Pearson Report
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 04:47

    Trying times to be sure, but it goes to show us everything changes – nothing is static. We can see that today, the world is ever changing. The art of living must come from being adaptable – not an easy feat to be sure.
    Cheers, Jenny @ Pearson Report

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:17

      You know, this is one of the reasons why I love the 1920s. They were trying, confusing times. Times of anxiety and fears, and yet not only people survived, but they lay down the foundation for bigger, more positive change to happen further on.
      I fing it strangely comforting.

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 09:24

    That’s a strong start for this theme! I am so happy you are back in the challenge. This is, again, a part of history I have read little about, so I will be learning a lot 🙂
    Happy A to Z!

    The Multicolored Diary

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:24

      Thanks! I became interested in WWI and its aftermath because it is so relevant to the European 1920s. Impossible to research Wurope int he 1920s without knowing anything about WWI. Then I realised it connection to Tolkien, and I was lost, LOL!

  • David
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 15:08

    Have to agree with Tarkabarka – really strong start to the Challenge. It would probably be a step to far to mangle Oscar Wilde and say that everyone in the Lost Generation was lost in their own way, but there were certainly a lot of ways this fractured group of people evolved the future.

    David/@Breakerofthings, calling by for the #A2ZChallenge
    From his travels around the 50:50 Earth
    https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:35

      You are right. They were all lost in their own way, and yet, they were also all lost int he same way.
      It was a very complex group of people

  • Donna McNicol
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 16:32

    Great start to the challenge. Both my grandfathers served in WWI but since I wasn’t born until 1947, I only knew them ‘after’.

    https://dbmcnicol.com/a-afterthought/

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:43

      The same here. My great-grandfather served in WWI. He was an Englishman born in Italy, and he served in the British Army.
      My dad adored him, so I learned a lot about him through my dad, included a couple of stories about his days in the army.

  • Pamela
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:03

    Fascinating read. It really was a time of great change and things would never be the same again.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 1, 2024 at 18:47

      True. Just like it’s happenign to us, I believe.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 21:22

    So many people, in all eras and places, have felt that profound sense of alienation after going through a life-altering experience such as war. People who tried to pretend everything was exactly the same and would soon return to normal were only fooling themselves.

    Welcome to My Magick Theatre

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 2, 2024 at 07:37

      I agree. And to some degree. I think this is what is happening even now, after the pandemic and with war happening around the world. I feel like we are living one of those knots in history where things are going to change (and are already chaging dramatically), but many people (and,sadly, many government people too) won’t admit or accept it.

  • Debby
    Posted April 1, 2024 at 21:55

    It is an exciting time that many do not know about. The 20s were sandwiched between WWI, the Depression, and WW2.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 2, 2024 at 18:45

      It’s true, eh? The 1920s is a very popular time, but mos tof people don’t really know much about it. There are a lot of misconception out there.

  • Locksley
    Posted April 2, 2024 at 05:36

    That sounds incredible. I didn’t know humans did all that. I suppose it’s how Ludo felt, being abandoned and taken to a rescue before someone just killed him. No wonder he found life difficult. He’s almost normal now!
    Have a nice blogging month 😀
    Locksley @ George’s GP World

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 2, 2024 at 08:50

      They were harrowing times, for sure.
      Happy to hear Ludo is recovering 🙂

  • Josna
    Posted April 3, 2024 at 04:57

    What an interesting subject, and you write so well. I know that was the case in the U.K.. So many people left–I think of Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That–and also the people the government induced to become colonial settlers–in Kenya, for example. For most of them the experience was deeply disillusioning, For the working classes it was even worse. They had been promised a better deal in return for their sacrifices during the war, and when it didn’t materialize they became angry and embittered. Something I dipped into recently was Akenfield, by Ronald Blythe, in which he interviews people from all wals of life in a village/small town about how their lives were transformed out of all recognition after the war–and not for the better.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 3, 2024 at 06:21

      Ooooh, that book by Blythe sounds interesting. I need to hunt it down. thanks for mentioning it.
      And yes. The thing is that nobody expected the war to be what it turned out to be, to the point I feel bad blaming anyone. It was one of those points were history was a particularly sever teacher. I have the feeling we are in another such time.

  • Andrew Wilson
    Posted April 3, 2024 at 06:43

    My grandfather signed up at the outset of WW1 at under 16 – he lied about his age – but he made it right through which seems strange when we have come to think of that war as a meat grinder which few survived. Unable to join his brother in America because his family had spent the money his brother sent for that purpose – and unable to do his second choice and become a teacher, because that work was reserved for women (since so many men had been killed, they had to step up as breadwinners and support their families) he had to return to his roots and be a gamekeeper (he was raised on a farm with animals). this made him a bitter and angry man and when my mother was given homework to do, he forbade it saying there was no point – she would be leaving school at 14 to go into domestic service (the old order) which is what happened. It took WW2 for my mother to escape the old order…
    A great start to your A-Z Sarah…

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 8, 2024 at 20:24

      The grandfather of one of my workmate was also in WWI when he was 20. He too survived, but she says he never spoke of that experience. It must have been very hard.

  • Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    Posted April 3, 2024 at 12:02

    Sounds bleak.

    Ronel visiting for A: My Languishing TBR: A
    Abominable Wraiths

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 8, 2024 at 20:32

      It must have been harder than we can imagine.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Anne E.G. Nydam
    Posted April 3, 2024 at 23:59
    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 8, 2024 at 20:37

      Thanks, Anne. Your started off with a great blog too 🙂

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