Ernest and Hadley Hemingway at a cafe with Lady Duff Twysden and others, Pamplona, Spain, 1925. The Lost Generation is a term used to refer to the generation of writers active immediately after World War I, especially expatriate writers whose work is characterized by a mood of futility and despair.
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Term used to describe the generation of writers active immediately after World War I. Gertrude Stein used the phrase in conversation with Ernest Hemingway, supposedly quoting a garage mechanic saying to her, "You are all a lost generation." The phrase signifies a disillusioned postwar generation characterized by lost values, lost belief in the idea of human progress, and a mood of futility and despair leading to hedonism. The mood is described by F. Scott Fitzgerald in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (1920) when he writes of a generation that found "all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken."
"Lost generation" usually refers specifically to the American expatriate writers associated with 1920s Paris, especially Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and to a lesser extent T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Hemingway used the phrase "You are all a lost generation" as the epigraph to his first novel THE SUN ALSO RISES
(1926), and the influential critic Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989) used "lost generation" in various studies of expatriate writers.
From THE ESSENTIAL GLOSSARY: AMERICAN LITERATURE by Stephen Matterson. © 2003 Stephen Matterson
. Reprinted by permission of the author.