More than any other writer, it can be said that F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the rollicking, riotous years known as the Roaring Twenties, from its wild parties, dancing and unrestrained drinking and her prosperity after the war and her new freedoms for women.
Above all, Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The great gatsby He is hailed as the quintessential image of Jazz Age America, inspiring Hollywood adaptations filled with dashing bootleggers and stylish flappers in short dresses.
But during those decades of renewed prosperity and economic growth, Fitzgerald—like other writers of the so-called “Lost Generation”—wondered whether it had disappeared. America in its rightful compass hastened to embrace the post-war wealth and consumer culture. even if The great gatsby captures the excitement of the 1920s, which reveals the dark side of the era, and criticizes the corruption and immorality that lurks beneath the glitz and glamour.
World War I broke out in the 1920s.
Set in 1922, four years after the end of the Great War, as it was known at the time, Fitzgerald’s novel shows the ways in which that conflict changed American society. The war left Europe devastated, and marked the emergence of the United States as the world’s dominant power. From 1920 to 1929, America enjoyed economic prosperity, with rising income levels, business growth, construction and trade in the stock market.
In the great gatsby, Nick Carraway, the narrator, and Jay Gatsby himself are veterans of World War I, and it is Gatsby’s military service that begins his rise from a “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere” (in the words of his beloved rival, Tom Buchanan) to the owner of a large mansion in West Egg, Long Island.
Speakeasies flourished with the fall of prohibition.
Beginning in the 1920s, the US government began enforcing the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale and manufacture of “intoxicating liquors.” But banning alcohol didn’t stop people from drinking; but speakeasies and other drinking establishments flourished, and people like the Fitzgeralds created “bathtub gin” to fuel their drinking parties.
“The whole episode [of The Great Gatsby] “It’s really driven by the media in a serious way,” said Sarah Churchwell, professor of humanities at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study and author of The Careless: Murder, Violence and the Invention of The Great Gatsby (2014). “The only way Jay Gatsby got rich overnight was because Prohibition created a black market,” allowing bootleggers like Gatsby and his friends to collect large sums of money. money in the short term.
The ban creates a ‘new currency’ class.
As their wealth grew, many Americans of the 1920s broke down the traditional barriers of society. This provoked consternation among the upper class plutocrats (portrayed in the novel by Tom Buchanan). In the great gatsby, Banning money is Gatsby’s rise to a new social position, where he can welcome his lost love, Daisy Buchanan, whose voice (as Gatsby famously tells Nick in history) “full of money.”
“One of the unintended consequences of prohibition was that it created this mass movement,” Churchwell said. “Fitzgerald was thinking of a concern when these initiates had – as they say – this new value people who come from dubious backgrounds then suddenly get all this money they’re looking for.
The flapper came out.
In 1925, when Fitzgerald was published The great gatsby, the flappers came out in full force, complete with bobbed hair, shorter skirts and cigarettes dangling from their mouths as they danced the Charleston. But even after the Hollywood trends of Gatsby Channeled flapper style, the story itself captures a different conservative period, although 1922 can be considered closer to 1918 than to the heyday of the Roaring Twenties a decade later. For one thing, the Charleston didn’t come out until 1923. Also, Churchwell says, “screens in the novel are much longer than we think. We’re drawing All of them wore knee-length dresses, but the dresses in 1922 were ankle-length.
Run to continue
Jordan Baker, the liberated female character of the novel, challenges one of the constraints that still hold back women in their 20s: She is an athlete, single and goes out with different men. “But his company wasn’t welcomed with open arms, and he’s taking it back,” Churchwell said, noting that Tom and Daisy Buchanan, as well as Jordan’s aunt, didn’t approve of his behavior. . “Like Gatsby, and its dark approach to social mobility, the story charts a cultural moment that was as concerned about the emancipation of women as it was celebrated.”
The story shows corruption under decadence.
As Gatsby’s commercial adaptation, Meyer Wolfsheim, based on the real-life New York gangster Arnold Rothstein, is widely believed to have scored the 1919 World Series, the rise of crime and the corruption of the prohibition era is strongly felt in The great gatsby. In Churchwell’s book, he resurrects a true crime that made headlines in 1922—the double murder of an adulterer in New Jersey—and uses it to explore the Finally Fitzgerald wrote his famous book.
“It tells a story about the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age that exists in [The Great Gatsby],” he said of killing Rev. Edward Hall, a pastor, and Eleanor Mills, a singer in his church choir. “It’s about sex, it’s about people who make love stories, it’s about how dirty it all is, how it all looks and how black it is. .”
A new consumer culture leads to increased advertising.
Although not all Americans are wealthy, many have more than enough money to spend. And more and more consumers are investing in it, from cars to radios to cosmetics to home appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. With the advent of new goods and technologies, came a consumer culture driven by marketing and advertising, which Fitzgerald took care to embody, and even criticize, in . The great gatsby.
“There’s this idea that America worships business, worships advertising,” Churchwell said. In one memorable example, the cuckolded George Wilson believed that the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg, a picture seen on a large billboard above the street, were the eyes of God.
The age of the car is revealed in Gatsby’s downfall.
Cars were invented in the early 20th century, but they became common in the 1920s, as lower prices and the advent of consumer credit made it possible for Americans to buy their own. The exhaust (and destruction) power of the car is clear The great gatsbywhile Gatsby’s shiny car becomes the cause of his downfall.
The legend foretold disaster before.
Gatsby’s dreams of winning Daisy for himself ended in failure, as the era of American prosperity came to a screeching halt with the stock market crash of 1929 and with the onset of the Great Depression. In 1930, 4 million Americans were unemployed; that number would rise to 15 million by 1933, the low point of the Depression.
In 1924, when Fitzgerald wrote The great gatsby, he seemed to foresee the eternal consequences of America’s obsessive love affair with capital and wealth. Through his novel, Fitzgerald first showed how the decadence of the 1920s—what he would later call “the most expensive orgy in history”—would end in disappointment and humiliated.
“This story is a real snapshot of a time when, in Fitzgerald’s mind, America had reached a point of no return,” Churchwell said. “He’s suddenly lost his senses, and he’s seizing the moment America is turning away from the land we inherited.”