The book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is about Marshall Berman’s views on the relationship between different manifestations of modernity, and the concept of modernism as an approach to understanding the world. This academic text talks about the changes that the world is constantly experiencing and the ways people and literary characters have found to adapt to them.
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The author supports his argument with the help of several works by a wide range of notable writers and poets from different times and countries, as well as with his personal experiences. He begins by introducing his idea of modernism, followed by an outline of the ideas he aims to expand on in the following chapters of the book. The author paints a grim picture, linking the constant change of modernization with terror and uncertainty.
Marshal Berman uses numerous quotations in his introduction to All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. He draws one of the key examples from Rousseau’s The New Eloise, where the hero, Saint-Preux, is faced with many tribulations of modern life. He eventually becomes numb to many things he would previously consider to be substantially more meaningful. The author uses this, and other extracts from literature to make his point about the depreciation of our world’s core values.
The author uses an impressive amount of evidence to back up his ideas. Although he includes some personal thoughts, most of his arguments are supported by the views expressed by other well-known writers and philosophers. Among the most noteworthy is his citation of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, from which he extracts a fascinating idea regarding the way some people attempt to escape modern problems. The author concludes that for many people, the only “solution to the chaos of modern life is to try not to live at all” (Berman 1988, 22). This passage does not refer to suicide, but to the popular choice to become mediocre, thus escaping the pressure to take advantage of life’s many opportunities.
Although there are no facts presented to make the reader believe this idea, it can be understood, as there is no clear way to define mediocrity and many ways to mask it as something different. This only reinforces the author’s main point, regarding the fact that the world is full of uncertainties, and most of the concepts we believe in are only applicable in limited conditions. Furthermore, the author’s claim stated in the previous paragraph can easily be verified by anyone. Although there is no scientific approach to it, a skeptical reader could consider their own recent decisions, as well as those of people around them, and come to a similar conclusion.
- How does this text matter to my understanding of society today?
The text contains ideas that are crucial to gaining a more profound understanding of the ways modern society functions. Although I am familiar with the basic ideas presented by Marshal Berman in his work, his discussion of these concepts and the evidence he provided have broadened my views on modernism.
- How might I imagine using the information I have learned beyond the class?
I can imagine using the information I have learned when making important decisions regarding my life. I am confident that I will remember the author’s words about the way some people intentionally choose mediocrity because they fear change. This will help me understand my psychological limitations and consider them when making choices.
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Berman, Marshall. 1988. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. New York: Penguin Books.