The Lost Generation is a term used to refer to a collective group of artists and writers who settled in Europe in the wake of the First World War. Members of this group lived in Europe in the 1920s and early 1930s, and they had a profound impact on society and the arts. The generation is referred to as “lost” not because it has faded from memory, but because the individuals often expressed a sense of emotional confusion, feeling lost in their own society.
Many members of the Lost Generation saw combat in World War I, sometimes as volunteers who traveled to Europe early, protesting America's lack of involvement in the early years of the war. Others lived through the war in Europe, or had close relationships with people who had. As a result, many had a deep sense of disillusionment created by the violence of the war, with many members viewing the war as an extended act of senseless brutality that destroyed the innocence that dominated society at the turn of the 20th century.
Members of the Lost Generation often lived a very bohemian lifestyle. They challenged conventional attitudes about appropriate behavior, especially for women, and many also expressed disdain when it came to morality, especially around sexuality. As they struggled with their disillusionment, members also questioned society as a whole, and targeted the arts with barbed commentary that suggested that most artists were simply repeating the work of previous generations.
Some well-known members of the group include Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Lost Generation included the modernist movement in art and writing, along with the Surrealist movement. Many members of this generation were deeply political, often holding radical political views that led to their marginalization in mainstream society. While some of these people are famous now, many attracted much less attention in their time; The Great Gatsby, for example, only sold 25,000 copies when it was released, although it is widely regarded as a classic in modern times.
The members of the Lost Generation struggled with shattered ideals about society, gender roles, diplomacy, morality, and other issues. Their commentary on society may not have been well-received at the time, but it went on to make icons out of many of them.