The Great Gatsby Context

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Contextual Study: The Great Gatsby & American Beauty

1. Comparison provides insight into the evolution that American culture has undergone throughout the 20th century

2. Jazz Age: era of great hope for the future, as end of WW1 set up expectations in people's minds that the future would be bright for everyone

3. decade of economic prosperity, with wealth a desired goal, as money thought to bring happiness and social & financial success

4. underlying the hope was a sense of shallowness and superficiality

5. period of excess when money was spent extravagantly on having a good time

6. rising popularity of Jazz: music form particularly associated with notion of freedom, with new dance crazes, The Charleston, throwing off the etiquette associated with earlier dance forms; exhibited a zest for the new-found freedom from restrictions

7. Technology: from Gatsby's juice machine to Ricky's video camera

8. Music: from jazz to rock (Lester's Pink Floyd)

9. Conservatism: from no mention of sexual intimacy to sex underscoring the entire tale, including homosexuality being acceptable by the majority, which would have been unthinkable back then; irony of the fact that the homosexuals are seemingly the only normal, happy people in the story

10. Drugs: drug of choice shifting from alcohol to marijuana

11. Social class: 'new money' was frowned upon, now, being wealthy entails class and social grace; background very important back then, 'old money' (East Egg) and British products (Rolls Royce, imported shirts) considered classy, now patriotism, 'Buy American' promoted

12. Wealth: Gatsby illegally acquires wealth to win back Daisy, but Lester gives it all up to live a more satisfying and wholesome life

13. American Dream: represents path to happiness thru material success: seen in the idolising of successful industrialists, Carnegie, Rockefeller

14. Twenties: originally revolved around discovery & individualism, but...
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