Greatest American Writers of the 20th Century

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The 20th century brought America a number of amazing writers whose work will span generations, and became the tools used to define a nation during that era. Wars, the struggle for basic rights, the belief in freedom from society, are some of the difficulties that these writers faced and wrote about. It is with their words that our country will always have a way to look back, to remember, and to learn from our mistakes.

The list of influential American writers of the 20thcentury is long, but here are some of the best:

Harper Lee:

Harper Lee lived and grew up in Alabama, and is well known for her book To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the story of tomboy Scout, and her father’s fight to save a black man during a trial. A trial that is wonderfully and vividly written.

To Kill a Mockingbird is filled with life lessons for all ages. Although the book is a fight for African American rights, many of the lessons it teaches still work for today. Which is one of the many reason why it is read in classrooms all over the country.

Quote from To Kill A Mockingbird:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Ayn Rand:

Born in Russia, Ayn Rand emigrated to the United States when she was in her early twenties. That makes her an American writer, and one of our country’s best. The first novel to gain her fame was The Fountainhead. This book has one of the best characters ever written. His name is Howard Roark, and his personality, his morals, his beliefs, and struggle are very complex, but that is what makes him so human. More human than any other novel has been able to achieve.

Rand went on to write other philosophical novels and continued to shock the world. From Atlas Shrugged to We The Living,Ayn Rand refused to hold back on her philosophy and beliefs, and because of this, her words will live on forever.

Quote from The Fountainhead:

“Love is reverence and worship, and glory, and the upward glance. Not a bandage for dirty sores. But they don’t know it. Those you speak of love most promiscuously are the ones who’ve never felt it. They make some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt, and general indifference, and they call it love. Once you’ve felt what it means to love as you and I know it-the total passion for the total height-you’re incapable of anything less.”

Ernest Hemingway:

Although known for his heavy drinking, suicide attempts, and fits of insanity, Ernest Hemingway was also a very accomplished writer. Many of his works, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms for example, are autobiographical in nature and help to explain the writer’s life.

He wrote about war, mostly, and not just war in the United States, but all over the world. No matter where the war was, our country was affected in some way, and Hemingway brought that to light. His works will always be used as a reminder of the needlessness of war.

Hemingway’s writing style helped to define fiction writing for future generations. Many since have copied, or tried to copy, his writing style and in many ways, it has become the norm for fiction writing. With his influence, American authors have taken fiction writing to a whole new level.

Quote by Ernest Hemingway:

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald was a man of the roaring 20’s, and his writing brings to life that unique time that has flown by. His most famous work is The Great Gatsby, a story that epitomizes the “Jazz Age” perfectly. The book is read in every high school in America, and because of that, every generation will have a glimpse of that prosperous time.

Fitzgerald also wrote a novel titled Tender is the Night, and it is autobiographical. The characters represent Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, who suffered from Schizophrenia. So, not only did Fitzgerald bring us the age of the 20’s, but he taught us about mental illness, as well.

Quote from Tender is the Night:

“God, am I like the rest after all?”

Mark Twain:

Mark Twain is often called the father of fiction, the writer of the one book that has forever affected and inspired every novel to follow it. Huckleberry Finn not only taught the world about needless racism, but it also brought us friendship, childhood and growing up, freedom, and home sweet home.

His many other works, including Tom Sawyer, are beloved still today, and have been read by nearly every generation. Not only that, but Mark Twain himself, the man, was influential during his time and long after. His humor, and his philosophy, are often quoted and many of his words still hold true today.

Quote from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

“What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?”

Do not forget these amazing American writers: Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Jack Kerouac, John Updike, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, Sylva Plath, and many, many more.


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