The Ice Palace

American Modernism

American Modernism was a literary movement that thrived in the United States from the early 1900s until around the end of World War II. It was a time of great change and upheaval, as the country experienced rapid industrialisation, urbanisation, and the devastating effects of two world wars.

In literature, Modernism reflected this sense of change and uncertainty. Modernist writers broke away from traditional literary forms and techniques, experimenting with new ways of expressing the complexities of modern life. They often depicted characters who were alienated, disillusioned, and struggling to find meaning in a rapidly changing world.

One of the key characteristics of Modernist literature is its focus on subjective experience. Modernist writers often used stream of consciousness, a technique that attempts to capture the flow of a character's thoughts and feelings in a fragmented and non-linear way. They also experimented with other narrative techniques, such as shifting perspectives and unreliable narrators.

Another important aspect of Modernism is its emphasis on language and form. Modernist writers were fascinated by the power of language to shape and distort reality. They often used unconventional syntax, imagery, and symbolism to create a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in their works.

While sharing many similarities with its European counterpart, American Modernism had its own distinct flavour. It was more pragmatic and less overtly political than English Modernism, reflecting the American emphasis on individualism and self-reliance. American Modernist writers were also more interested in exploring the social and cultural changes taking place in their own country, often focusing on themes such as the American Dream, the loss of innocence, and the clash between tradition and modernity.

Some of the most famous American Modernist writers include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and Ezra Pound. These writers produced some of the most enduring works of American literature, such as The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, The Waste Land, The Sound and the Fury, and The Cantos.

American Modernism is a complex and multifaceted literary movement that continues to fascinate and challenge readers today. Its experimental techniques, focus on subjective experience, and emphasis on language and form have had a profound impact on the development of American literature.

"The Ice Palace" - F. Scott Fitzgerald

"The Ice Palace" is a short story about a young woman named Sally Carrol Happer from the warm and sunny South who falls in love with a man from the cold North. She travels to his hometown in the winter to meet his family and friends, but the harsh weather and different culture make her feel out of place.

The story explores themes of cultural differences, love, and the search for identity. Sally Carrol is torn between her love for the man and her attachment to her Southern roots. She feels like she doesn't belong in the North, but she's also not sure if she wants to go back to the South.

One important symbol in the story is the ice palace, a giant structure made of ice that Sally Carrol visits during a winter carnival. It represents the beauty and coldness of the North, as well as the allure of the unknown. Sally Carrol gets lost in the ice palace, which mirrors her confusion and uncertainty about her future.

In the end, Sally Carrol realises that she belongs in the South, where she feels most at home. She breaks off her engagement and returns to her warm and familiar surroundings. The story is a reminder that sometimes we have to leave home to truly appreciate where we come from.

"The Ice Palace" (page 2)

Source: Washington State University (PDF) 

"Sally Carrol," he said with a curious intensity, "don't you like us?"


"Us down here?"

`Why, Clark, you know I do. I adore all you boys."

"Then why you gettin' engaged to a Yankee?"

"Clark, I don't know. I'm not sure what I'll do, but-- well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale."

"What you mean?"

"Oh, Clark, I love you, and I love Joe here, and Ben Arrot, and you-all, but you'll-- you'll-- -- "

"We'll all be failures?"

"Yes. I don't mean only money failures, but just sort of-- of ineffectual and sad, and-- oh, how can I tell you?"

"You mean because we stay here in Tarleton?"

"Yes, Clark; and because you like it and never want to change things or think or go ahead."

He nodded and she reached over and pressed his hand.

"Clark," she said softly, "I wouldn't change you for the world. You're sweet the way you are. The things that'll make you fail I'll love always-- the living in the past, the lazy days and nights you have, and all your carelessness and generosity.

"But you're goin' away?"

"Yes-- because I couldn't ever marry you. You've a place in my heart no one else ever could have, but tied down here I'd get restless. I'd feel I was-- wastin' myself. There's two sides to me, you see. There's the sleepy old side you love; an' there's a sort of energy-- the feelin' that makes me do wild things. That's the part of me that may be useful somewhere, that'll last when I'm not beautiful any more."

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