How did Modernist Writers Use Fragmentation: In the beginning

During the First World War period, the people of the world saw how modern men are capable of doing horrible things. American literature created during that time mirrors subjects related to destruction and turmoil.

However, their themes regarding these are embraced leading to the tumble and fall of the Western civilization’s classical tradition and practices. Modernist literature also embraces fragmentation as a literary form because of its continued support to the fragmentation of reality and challenges of Hegelian notions of totality and wholeness. In connection to those themes, related to destruction is the theme of fragmentation.

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In modern literature, literary modernist consider fragmentation as thematic and formal. Not only is literature broken down, but it also leads to the breaking down of their particular plot, characters, theme, image and the narrative form itself are being fragmented. Modernist writers rejoiced as the conventional forms crumble down.

Literary modernist abolishes bonds by drawing back traditional standards like the gender and racial roles. They also abolish conventional forms of language through purposely destroying the rules of language.

When modernist works, for instance on poetry, they fragment it to consist of broken stanzas and sentences to look like the cultural debris and waste in which the modern man walks. Other literary works are fragmented from their literary form, which contains disjointed and non-linear narratives.

Modernism started from Europe and influenced the United States during the early 20th century. With this, it influenced many cultures,including music, art and literature by sweeping off their traditional practices, articulating wisdom of modern life for a touch of liberation from the past in just a short period of time, including its firm practices.

In regard to literature, the fundamentals of modernism are thematic, formal and stylistic. Modernist literature is concerned with demonstrating and projecting modernity, which by its very meaning, outdoes itself. Modernity, in order to exist and develop, must do its best to conquer the past. On the contrary, modernity also destroys itself as the moment arises and becomes part of the past.

Fragmentation and Other Literary Styles

Most writers nowadays have different writing style to capture audience and readers. While traditional story lines tell the story in a direct, continuous or linear and in an easy to follow manner, fragmented narratives are more on re-ordering the sequence of the story. It intends to excite and challenge the reader to puzzle out all the fragmented pieces of the story to understand it better and figure out the story line.

This type of narrative can begin in the middle and can often give flashbacks or flash-forward depending on the writer’s style.

In Media Res

In the book called “Recent Theories of Narratives” written by literary scholar Martin Wallace, there are several classic examples of fragmented narratives from “Odyssey” to “Ulysses”. In literary expressions, the story started “In Media Res,” which converts from Latin as “into the middle of things.”

Commonly, when the writer begins from the middle of some action, these fragmented narratives capture the reader and the audiences’ attention in an instant and retain their attention as the story line cycles back in a non-linear manner to give some important background information on the narrative’s plot.


Fragmented narratives also tend to transition from a straightforward linear plot line, going back in time to link up something that happened in the past. This is becoming a very common story line nowadays. Going backward to the past events in order to connect and inform the readers about how it affects the events in the main plot can easily challenge readers and capture their attention.

The flashback style of fragmentation has also been used by many writers to establish a connection between the characters who previously did not connect with each other and present how they relate to the events or interact.

Flash forward

Just like the flashback technique, the flash forward style enables the narrative to skip the main plot line and move forward to the future event. In some story line, the flash forward method is being used to elaborate more on the protagonist.

In some cases or story lines, the two methods, flashback and flash forward, are both used to present an attractive plot. In this setup, some characters from the past and the future are presented to be interconnected with one another. The flash forward technique is also widely used nowadays to capture readers.

Linearity and Non-linearity

Linear narratives are the classic style used in making a story line. They compose of a beginning, middle and an end. Just like writing a fairy tale, they start by explaining how everything began and flow through the whole story line in sequence.

Fragmented narratives, though, tend to possess a beginning, middle and end, but this composition can be disordered. The narrative might begin in the middle line of the story and can go back to the beginning of the plot and then flash forward to the end. This is the non-linearity of it. Fragmented narratives can be categorized as linear narratives, even if they are told in a non-linear way.

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