War also was one of the most important events that shaped the 20th century. According to Jones (1937) the First World War traumatised the soldiers not only physically but also mentally. Santanu Das (2005) paints the picture of World War I “mutilation and mortality, loneliness and boredom, the strain of constant bombardment, the breakdown of language and the sense of alienation from home” is what he construes the soldiers felt like. He notes a recurring picture in modernist poems that of mud which soldiers drown into is really the petrified bodies of other soldiers.
Howarth (2011) mentions how Gertrud Stein compares the war with artistic composition and points out that character, visual perspective and narrative time were all dislocated in the experience of war and the kind of art she describes. Howarth (2011) notes a feeling that there was no heroicness especially for those who were the mentally traumatised, and had to repeatedly relive the horror of 1916 into the present of 1924 or 1930. He sees this feeling portrayed into the uncertain, stuttering sentences and the gaps in poetry of Modernist poems which echoes the speechlessness of the people who are disturbed by all that is lost.The effects of war on the mentality and poetry can be traced in most modernist poetry of the twentieth century, however, it is more prominent in some. Among all of them more famous poets such as T. S.
Eliot is more representative. According to Kaplan (2006), as a poet, Eliot’s mind was the mind of Europe, mentioning that Eliot himself believed that poetic creation necessitated a sense of history. Kaplan, believes that the intellectual environment of 19th century, Darwinian curves of descent and ascent, concept of entropy, was conducive to pessimism and gloom indicative of the judgement day, which entropy implied.
Howarth (2011) also attests the presence of these features in these works and mentions that they portray a collage of underworlds, wars. Eliot mentions and attests to this historical pressure when he says that, “public events had provoked in him a mood of despair . . .
he described in vivid terms the feelings of loathing and repugnance which the contemporary situation induced in him” (as quoted in Ackroyd, p.109). A mood that probably resulted in his choice to convert to Anglican Catholicism.This historical context is in line with Daschke’ view that mentions how apocalyticism is “much less about prediction of the future and much more about remaking a world shattered by unexpected, unexplained pain and disillusionment, known in many areas of medicine and psychological health as trauma and that they are the expressions of traumatized people (458). According to psychologist Ronnie Janhoff-bulman in the face of a traumatic injury or event, three simple, basic assumptions about the world become disrupted: That the world is benevolent; that the world is meaningful; and that the self is worthy (1992, 6). Therefore, the Great War period was of utmost significance in Anglophone modernism as it affected the artists as well.
According to Morison an apocalyptic interpretation of the war in some Anglophone modernism had to do with another significant feature of the late war years, which was the turn to communications from spirit entities a main part of fin-de-siècle ritual mainly to contact the loved ones lost in war.Therefore, the historical context of the man’s loss of belief in human’s superiority over other species and the devastating effects of war, acted as traumatic event. According to Daschke features of shared trauma, are reflected in the structure and sentiments of apocalyptic writings, movements, and worldviews. Herman (1997) mentions that collective trauma can “undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into state of existential crisis”. (Herman 50) This is exactly what happened to the human progressive system of the time.
Arthur Neal also mentions how these traumatic events on social levels, make “individuals lose confidence in their ability to see the interrelatedness of events, and disturbing questions are raised about the linkage of personal lives with historical circumstances.” (Neal 1998, 3–4). This notion can be followed in the works of Eliot, who finds that the modern life has little significance to the grandeur of the past specially the debased life and sexuality of modern people.Daschke observes that the roots of one’s world-view gets damaged by trauma since it “unsettles the assumed building blocks of meaning in the universe, disrupts the storyline that makes up the narrative called past, present, and future.” This broken storyline and the broken binary opposition between now/past, and future/past can also be observed in Eliot’s work which only concerns itself with process of recollection and the mental stream of its speaker.