A generation disillusioned by the horrors of war, the "Lost Generation" refers to those who reached adulthood immediately following World War I. Disillusioned by the horrors of war, the Lost Generation was an anti-nihilistic bunch, marked by cynicism and a lack of faith in traditional values and ideals. They were hedonistic, frankly - indulging themselves in the pleasures of drinking and partying to busy their directionless spirits.
Sounds awfully familiar to today's generation of youth, doesn't it?
These two generations are disturbingly similar. Both are tremendously superficial, often creating shallow relationships and desiring lavish lifestyles derived from the apathy of their generation. Both chase an illusion of the American Dream, leading romantics on but rarely ever resulting in success. Both are rooted in hookup culture and booze, settling for casual relationships brought about by the apathy produced by the financial crises and political struggles that plague America.
Today's generation of youth is encouraged to 'follow their dreams', to guide oneself with their own values to achieve success. It's a sad reality, though, that one's dreams are often never achieved. We're misguided towards failure, encapsulated by the stories of success that lead our naïve selves on. For example, take Jay Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Gatsby was the epitome of a tragic hero, a "penniless young man without a past", turned rich and successful. He sought to woo his love interest, Daisy, with his newfound wealth, and blinded himself with his romanticism, this hamartia climactically resulting in his death. His ambition of changing Daisy's mind, his "American Dream" if you will, washed away his identity, and clouded his judgment through "the colossal vitality of his illusion".
A product of the apathy that yielded the Lost Generation, Gatsby was a dreamer. The same traumatic experiences and crises that today's generation face, however, create many just like him - particularly, Generation Z and the millennials. Today's youth believe in the same illusion of the American Dream as Gatsby did. Consider the rise of SoundCloud rappers, who, seeing success stories from those such as the late XXXTentacion or Lil Uzi Vert, blindly follow their passions of making it big as a rapper (if you're a SoundCloud rapper reading this, I apologize, but try something else). The American Dream leads naïfs on; it's a ruthless lie bundled in wrapping paper and a bow on top (oops, so much for being an anti-nihilist).
The modern superficiality of relationships mirrors that of the Lost Generation, too. In Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, protagonist Jake is left by his love interest after she learns that Jake has no genitals (understandable, but read the book - there's more to the story). Similarly, The Great Gatsby revolves around shallow relationships, and paints a life of mindless partying, booze, and infidelity.
Nearly half of people admit to being unfaithful at some point in their relationship today. It's a sad reality, which especially plagues the younger generation. Cheating came with the rise of hookup culture. Especially predominant in high school and college, it's a familiar sight to many - the dark rooms, the loud tunes, the "sorry, I was drunk". This theme of frivolous relationships yields many that "settle for sex when real love can't be found", a dissatisfaction in relationships that is startlingly similar to that of the Lost Generation. In his song Doing It Wrong, street poet and philosopher Drake says we're "a generation of not being in love... / 'cause you'll say you love me, and I'll end up lying / And say I love you too". We truly are a Lost(er) Generation - perhaps we should embrace our nihilism, seeing that our American Dream rarely brings us anywhere. Maybe then will we trade our superficiality and our lives of apathy in exchange for something more meaningful.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 1954. Print.
Stimpson, Emily. “Gatsby Madness and the Millennials: Another Lost Generation?” Catholic News Agency Guest Columnist, Catholic News Agency, 20 May 2013, www.catholicnewsagency.com/column/gatsby-madness-and-the-millennials-another-lost-generation-2572.
Graham, Aubrey Drake. "Doing It Wrong." Take Care, Deluxe, Cash Money Records Inc., 2012, track 13. Spotify, open.spotify.com/track/4eSGSqP2TZvvX0kadZZttM?si=e4nUns4LRR273i_-6yHsTw