The western world has found itself in the modern era marked by the omnipresent progress which dominates everyday lives of people lucky enough to live in the so-called developed countries, one of them being the USA. Due to technological and medical innovations their population has been rising exponentially, several diseases have been eradicated and the lives of people throughout the country have been improved. The question which appears, however, is: but have they really? The USA are facing numerous alarming situations that concern not only the present but also the future. Climate change, chronic diseases, allergies, extinction of animal species, pollution and hunger are only a few of the consequences progress has brought about, many of which have already made their way into the lives of ordinary Americans. However, human ignorance towards the dangers of modernization has yet to be overcome regardless of the fact that criticism of inconsiderate actions, which in the long run will bring nothing but destruction, is and has been for some time now one of the themes in modern literature. Poems such as Recitative by Death and Inexpensive Progress shed light onto the future which awaits the human race should its self-serving behavior continue. It is, of course, absurd to assume contemporary USA could withstand the pressure to retain its position as a modern-day superpower, but nevertheless the toll the title brings with it comes in the shape of deadly consequences exposed in the aforementioned poems.
This essay will explore how destructive the era of progress has become in the USA, focusing on the literary view of the paradoxically degrading quality of life modernization has brought forth in the last few decades. It should be noted, however, that this essay’s aim is not to condemn in any way the American society but to research how, despite their British origins, W. H. Auden’s and J. Betjeman’s poems provide an explicit premonition of a contradictory faith held in store for the USA, should the devastating outcomes of its progressive era continue to be ignored by the general public. In addition, it will be discussed how Recitative by Death and Inexpensive Progress give insight into the discouraging vision of the future, in which man has forgotten his place while trying to shape the world to fit his standards and where the only reasonable end to his naivety is offered by Death itself.