The term nostalgia derives from the Greek for homesickness. In literature, nostalgia is used to refer to a general interest in the past, or even a longing for the past and past events or ways of life. Characters in literature often experience nostalgia as they think about their pasts and events from their past. Romantic literature often contains feelings of nostalgia.
Examples of Nostalgia from literature
Wordworth's poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" has a nostalgic ending as the poet thinks back on the view of daffodils dancing in the field:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Nostalgia is a theme in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Gatsby has a nostalgic longing for the past, represented by his longing for Daisy, but as the narrator Nick observes, he cannot repeat the past:
He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself that perhaps had gone into loving Daisy.
The entire novel Gone with the Wind can be considered an example of nostalgia. The book was written by Margaret Mitchell in the early 1900's, and it portrays the bygone days of the antebellum South. In the novel, Scarlett goes from innocent Southern belle to a woman hardened by the realities of war. One of the quotes that demonstrates nostalgia is found in Rhett Butler's words as he and Scarlett watch Atlanta burned by Sherman's army:
Take a good look my dear. It's an historic moment you can tell your grandchildren about-how you watched the Old South fall one night.
After watching Atlanta fall, Rhett, who had declined (scandalously) to join the Confederate army up to that point, joined the army in a nostalgic gesture.
Literary Terms Examples