The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald was written and set in the 1920's, a decade known as the "Jazz Age." Fitzgerald described it as a time when "the parties were bigger, the pace was faster, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser." 1 It was just after the 1st World War and the young generation began to rebel. The young women (known as the flappers) would have their hair styled into short bobs, would wear clothes that were much shorter than before and smoke of freely in public. The men and women would go to all night parties and dance to dances such as The Charleston, One Step and Black Bottom. The 1920's was also a time were wealth and status was everything. There was two types of wealth though, there was the "old wealth", people who had been born into families of excessive wealth and the "nouveaux riches", people who had made their money through crime and bootlegging. This was a big issue during the 1920's, due to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution: Prohibition. This law banned the sale, transportation and manufacture of alcohol, but with the "Jazz Age" being a time of big parties, alcohol was widely sought after and brought in much money for those who supplied it.

The "Jazz Age" was also a time when the whole meaning of the American Dream changed for good. The real idea of the American Dream was to work hard, support the family and to own land, but the corruption of the 1920's saw people thinking that the dream was to have money and be rich. This changed because people saw others with money and wanted what they had. They had to get rich quick and it didn't matter how this was achieved. The American Dream is a major theme in The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald uses this to explore society, especially at the two different parties (Myrtle's & Gatsby's).

The first of the two parties is at Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson's New York apartment, which they use for their sordid affair. In the events leading up to the party we have been introduced to Nick Carraway who is the narrator of the novel, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who live in wealthy East Egg, and Jordan Baker who is Daisy's best friend. Daisy is Nick's cousin and Tom he knows from college. The chapter begins with Tom taking Nick to New York for the day and during this trip he meets Tom's mistress, Myrtle. They go to the apartment and this is where the first of the parties begins. The apartment is nothing special, in fact we are led to believe it is very claustrophobic and cheap. Fitzgerald describes it as "a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath…tapestried furniture entirely too large for it." 2 The party itself is in fact very cheap too and unprepared, it is only arranged at the last minute and there is not even any food for the guests to eat, so they have to order some in, "Tom rang for the janitor and sent him for some celebrated sandwiches." 3 With the party in full swing we are made aware that even though this is the time of prohibition, everyone is drinking. Fitzgerald portrays the drunkenness very well, he doesn't have the characters falling about drunk, instead he has the characters do small things that they probably wouldn't do if not under the influence. A great example of this is when Nick wipes off a spot of shaving cream from Mr.McKees's cheek "taking out my handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon." 4 This probably wouldn't have annoyed him if he wasn't drinking. The fact though that everyone at the party is drinking doesn't give the reader a very positive attitude to the way society respects the law.

Throughout chapter two we learn more about Myrtle's character. Myrtle is from the "valley of ashes" a desolate area between West Egg and New York. Fitzgerald description of the area is very grey and bleak "grotesque gardens", "ash-grey men", "grey cars", 5 from this description the reader can only think...
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