The Lost Generation: Expatriates in Paris

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“The Lost Generation” is a group of artists that left America because they were disillusioned and disgusted by the quickly developing consumerism and materialistic desires found in America during the 1920s.(Sarah Ferrell) The people of the 1920s had been shaped and molded by the vicious, and basically pointless, World War I. Their lives had evolved and been formed to fit the war, and when it ended their morals, mentality, and skills no longer fit into “normal” life. Americans began rebelling in all kinds of ways.

The younger group living in the twenties started to question the elder generation, becoming rebellious, flighty, and disregarding traditional beliefs. Real world problems were ignored; the generation all together branched off into materialism, selfishness, and insecurity. “The Lost Generation” more specifically characterizes the authors and other artists of the twenties that left for Paris after the war to escape the artistic and intellectual limitations of America.eft for Paris after the war to escape emingway, and Gertrude Stein,inions of the behaviors of the time and the war in their wor (Paris. “University)

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The war left these literary figures to live their lives without direction, having their beliefs heartily shaken. They were pointing fingers at politicians and the government, saying the war was a fraud, also, calling the institution of religion hypocritical.

Before the war it was a common idea that good things happened to good, hardworking people; during the war this idea was challenged; and after, it was for all purposes shattered. Some expatriates such as John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, expressed their opinions of Americans behavior and the destruction of structure in the average American’s life in their works. (302 Found.)

John Dos Passos was born in Chicago in 1896. Eager to be a part of the war, Dos Passos joined the Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps in July 1917. He later related his opinions and accounts in books such as The Three Soldiers, 1921, a book about the impact of war on an ordinary soldier (Spartacus Educational) and what the time period of war was like; also writing One Man’s Initiation, 1920.

These together set a base for “pre-dominant anti-war and semi-anarchist themes of his radical period.” During this time, his life revolved around the War. His books revolved around the war. Later on he reported for duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Camp Crane and when the war ended was stationed in Paris. This change was much needed. The U.S. Army Overseas Education Commission allowed him to study anthropology. He ended up spending a considerable amount of time in Paris, for it served as inspiration for several more of his works, shifting his topics from all about war to more worldly things. (Book Review)

The writers included in the phrase “The Lost Generation” are often characterized as being extreme partiers, drunk, rebellious, frivolous, and non-confrontational regarding worldly problems. Post World War I was a time full of “daring clothes and scandalous dances.” (Seeking meaning in life) F. Scott Fitzgerald is the embodiment of this characterization. F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1896. Fitzgerald joined World War I and was stationed at Camp Sheridan. After leaving war he focused more on writing. His first acclaimed novel was based on the new mentality in America that was pushing the bounds of what was accepted.

This novel ,This Side of Paradise , is about a man and his struggles through life, including his dutiful enlistment into World War I. F. Scott Fitzgerald brought attention to America’s youths’ love affairs and “petting parties.” (Seeking meaning in life) This Side of Paradise was published in 1920, making him famous almost overnight. His life then moved into a constant stream of opulent soirees and jazz dances full of more promiscuous dancing than ever before and falling into alcoholism.

Soon after This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald and his new wife, Zelda Sayre, left for Paris; lured by the artistic culture, historic architecture, and the beauty and promise of Paris, he wrote one of his most well-known novels, The Great Gatsby, a dramatic novel about one man’s observation of the destruction done by characters in the rich upper class society. Swiftly, however, his life turned to tragedy. His young wife died in a fire, having been placed in a mental institution following some serious mental breakdowns. He was soon consumed in his alcoholism and personal turmoil, thinking himself a failure.

Fitzgerald was swallowed up in an America that preferred partying to dealing with real issues; and that is how he lived his life; wrapped up in parties and drinking. Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway participated in World War I as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross and was injured on the Italian front. He received two decorations from the Italian government and joined their infantry. His time at the front influenced his novel, A Farewell to Arms. War was the main theme of many of his works up until he escaped to Paris.

Hemingway was later employed by Toronto Star in his short return to the US following the war. Hemingway married Hadley Richardson and moved to Paris working as a foreign correspondent for Toronto Star, writing of the events taking place all over Europe. He remained in Paris from 1921 to 1929. Paris served as much inspiration for Hemingway’s Three Stories and Ten Poems, published in 1923, and influenced the development of A Moveable Feast. (Biography of Ernest Hemingway)

Hemingway was able to meet Gertrude Stein with the help of another influential writer of the time, Sherwood Anderson. Ernest Hemingway was placed at the very top of Stein’s list of writers that qualified to be described as, “The Lost Generation”. This phrase, coined by Stein herself, was immortalized in the epigraph for Hemingway’s first big hit novel, The Sun Also Rises. (Biography of Ernest Hemingway) Gertrude Stein was born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. She first moved to Paris with her brother, Leo, to collect Postimpressionist paintings.

She and Leo created a literary and artistic salon at 27 rues de Fleurus. Through her salon she observed many artists whose lives were dominated by the war, or had a serious lack of morale and/or drinking problems. During the war, she and her assistant, Alice B. Toklas, served as ambulance drivers for the French. After the war, she maintained her salon, serving artists such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Gertrude Stein biography)

She was an incredible and influential writer of the postwar era. She developed a very negative opinion of her generation through the artists she encountered in her life, saying: “Every man becomes civilized between the ages of 18 and 23. If he does not go through a civilizing experience at that time of his life, he will not become a civilized man. The men who went to war at 18 missed the civilizing…All you young people who served in the war are a lost generation. You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death.” —Gertrude Stein (University of Missouri) The expatriates in Paris were “The Lost Generation”.


  1. “The Lost Generation.” 302 Found. Tues Feb. 21. 2012.
  2. “Literary Expatriates in Paris.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries. Tues Feb. 21. 2012.
  3. “The Lost Generation.” University of Missouri-St. Louis. Tues Feb. 21. 2012.
  4. “Biography of Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).” Biography of Ernest Hemingway. Wed Feb. 22. 2012.
  5. “Gertrude Stein Biography.” A&E Networks Television. Wed Feb. 22. 2012.
  6. “John Dos Passos : Biography.” Spartacus Educational. Thurs Feb. 23. 2012. .
  7. “Book Review — THREE SOLDIERS By John Dos Passos.” Webster University. Thurs Feb. 23. 2012. .
  8. “The Lost Generation – Seeking Meaning in Life.” Free Research Papers: Free Essays and Term Papers. Thurs Feb. 23. 2012.
  9. “This Side of Paradise.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Sat Feb. 25. 2012.
  10. Sarah Ferrell Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. Volume 5. 3rd ed. New York: Charles Scribners Wed Fed. 23. 2012
  11. Dictionary of Literary biography, volume 4: Edited by Karen Lane Rood,. Writers in Paris, 1920-1939. American A Bruccoli Clark Layman, The Gale Group, 1980. Pp10-13

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