Literary Modernism and Nation in American Short Stories

Subject: Literature
Pages: 2
Words: 447
Reading time:
2 min

The story “Of the Two Johns” depicts the role of education in one’s perception of the community. When African-American John becomes educated, he starts to understand that racial and ethnic differences do not matter, while his relatives cannot comprehend it. White John becomes disregardful for racial discrimination and sexually assaults the sister of the other John. Modernization in America awakens African-Americans with regards to struggling for their rights. John from a poor family wants to open a school for his community members, yet he encounters racism. He wants to teach European and American history to explain that the notion of community is a deep and horizontal comradeship. In spite of the fact that modernization promotes social change, it is still rather difficult to withstand the established order and enhance it.

The consequences of modernization in the US are presented in “A Rose for Emily” as a crucial moment when community orders and perceptions are broken. Since Emily, a White aristocratic female, builds relationships with a Yankee, it is apparent that she loves him, yet the society cannot allow this. This story shows the objectivity of nations through modernity, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, it demonstrates the subjective archaic nature of the community through the eyes of nationalists. There is the official universality of nationalism as a social-cultural concept, and, at the same time, one may note asymmetric features of its specific manifestations.

Both of the stories prove the concept of an “imagined political community”. Likewise, the division on Black and White communities “Of the Two Johns,” the distinction between aristocrats and Yankees show an imaginary community, which is necessarily limited in its representations, and, at the same time, has sovereignty to some extent. These communities are imagined in the sense that even representatives of the smallest nations who do not know all their relatives have the same ideas about their native community. People born in particular communities master certain ideas, perceptions, and values inherent in their community; under the influence of political and social factors, they isolate themselves from others.

Despite inequality and exploitation, a nation is seen as a deep and horizontal partnership. Nations have value and ethical prescriptions, which brings them closer to Durkheim’s concept of moral community with its established convictions and traditions. In the mentioned stories, nationalism appears as a type of cultural construction that affects people’s views, decisions, behavior, and relationships.