The Great Gatsby and America's Socio-Economic World in the 1920s

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The Great Gatsby and Socio-economic World of the 1920s in America

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is not just a novel; rather it is the representation of an era. The story is about the moral decay that arouses in the American society in 1920s. It also shows the picture of the American dream getting corrupted by lust, greed and empty pursuit of pleasure. In other words it was the collision of subcultures. The wealthy and elite class found pleasure by throwing decadent parties and playing wild jazz music. On the other hand, the member of middle class was seduced by the dabbler lifestyle of the rich. Jay Gatsby was somewhat a mysterious one as people knew very little about his personal life. We finally find that Gatsby was involved in criminal activities to win his beloved Daisy’s attention.

On the surface, The Great Gatsby is a story of unrequited love. The novel is based on the themes of love, revenge, desire for money and the suicide. But a careful analysis of the novel reveals that its major theme encompasses a much larger, less romantic scope. Through this novel, Fitzgerald has tried to portray a real picture of American society of 1920s. The story is set in the neighborhood of Long Island, New York. In this novel, we also find a reflection of disintegration of American dream which was about moral values and pursuit of success. The idea of American dream emerged in the Colonial period and it was based on the perception that success can be achieved by any individual, no matter what social position he possesses. What matters is his personal skills, hard work and efforts. A prototypical 1920s’ man has been described by the author Roland Marchand in his book in the following words: “Not only did he flourish in the fast-paced, modern urban milieu of skyscrapers, taxicabs, and pleasure-seeking crowds, but he proclaimed himself an expert on the latest crazes in fashion, contemporary lingo, and popular pastimes.” We find that Marchand’s definition is quite similar to the characters of Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald has presented the era of 1920s as the one in which social and moral values were weak and a moral decay ensued in American society. It was, in fact, an era which was marked by reckless pursuit of pleasure, amoral quest for money and certain lustful desires. The protagonist of this novel, Jay Gatsby is a wealthy, mysterious man residing in a Gothic mansion in West Egg. He is fond of throwing lavish parties every Saturday night. The sole purpose behind these ostentatious parties was the gaudy display of wealth. Most of the people who joined those parties, even didn’t know anything about Gatsby. They just wanted to be the part of such lavish parties so they could enjoy expensive wines and loud jazz music along with delicious foods. It is important to mention here that the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a booming underworld designed to satisfy the huge demand for bootleg liquor among rich and poor alike. In that period, people started to make fortunes through the illegal business of liquor. Such a business made people rich overnight and turned them into millionaires. Besides, the World War I ended in 1918, and the young Americans, who had fought in the war, became highly disillusioned as the butcheries and the brutalities which they had witnessed in the war made their ideas about Victorian morality quite vague and blurred. Another aspect of that particular era was the sudden rise of stock market that resulted in the increase in national wealth and thus the phenomenon of materialism emerged. People started spending their newfound money in getting luxuries of life and they felt satiated by the gaudy display of their wealth. The narrator of the novel, Nick Carraway is a young man who has studied in Yale and then moves to New York. He becomes the neighbor of Jay Gatsby, who is famous for his opulent parties and lives in a grand Gothic...
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