17 January 2011
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates the social rejection of the Prohibition in the 1920s. Prohibition, the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol, made millionaires out of bootleggers like Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald was driven to write many novels because of his love for Zelda. Great Gatsby, a novel written by Fitzgerald, portrayed the lavish lifestyle of the rich in the 1920s and their ignorance toward Prohibition.
Congress proposed Prohibition during World War I as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. In January 1919, the amendment became part of the Constitution (Yancey). It prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol in the United States. It also forbade the import and export of alcohol as well. The amendment was supposed to be an answer to social instability and moral decline at the beginning of the twentieth century. Instead it stands as a lesson to the fact that complex problems, such as immorality, demand complex solutions, and that Americans balk whenever somebody tries to control their morality and personal habits. The Eighteenth Amendment became a law when Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce it (Davis). Prohibition agents were also hired to enforce Prohibition. The Volstead Act encountered resistance when scofflaws began to violate Prohibition by making, selling, and transporting illegal alcohol (Baker).
Scofflaws were anyone who violated the rules of Prohibition, such as bootleggers. Bootleggers were people who illegally manufactured, sold, or smuggled alcohol. In the period of Prohibition, bootlegging increased greatly. The earliest bootleggers smuggled foreign-made alcohol into the United States from bordering nations. Bootlegging is also a type of organized crime. Liquor was no longer legally available; so the public turned to criminal groups who managed the bootlegging industry and supplied them with alcohol (Hillstrom). Criminal groups also provided alcohol at speakeasies. Speakeasies were illegal drinking spots that sprang up in astonishing numbers after the government closed down bars and saloons in 1920. In order to get inside, a person had to whisper a code word to the doorman. They were usually set up in secret places such as basements, attics, warehouses, and apartment houses. A type of speakeasy that was usually hidden behind a legitimate business was a blind pig. Blind pigs were often small, dinghy, and crowded. Nightclubs, another type of speakeasy, were usually roomier and offered food, music, and dancing. F. Scott Fitzgerald’ fascination with the anti-Prohibition movement played a major part in his book, The Great Gatsby (Baughman).
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896. Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. After performing poorly in school, he was sent to a New Jersey boarding school in 1911. He enrolled at Princeton in 1913 but never graduated. Near the end of World War I, in 1917, he enlisted in the army. He was stationed at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery, Alabama as a second lieutenant. There, he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre. Zelda agreed to marry him but delayed their wedding until he proved a success. In order to marry Zelda, Fitzgerald wrote his first book (Hermsen).
Fitzgerald wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to impress Zelda. The next novel that Fitzgerald wrote was The Great Gatsby in 1925. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values. Fitzgerald soon fell into a wild, reckless life-style of parties due to all of the money he earned writing. During the Great Depression, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown and Fitzgerald battled alcoholism. Fitzgerald then published Tender Is the Night in 1934, and sold short stories to The Saturday Evening Post to support his lavish lifestyle. He left for...
Cited: Baker, Lawrence W. “Eighteenth Amendment.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History 54.4 (1999): 201.
Baughman, Judith. “Prohibition” American Decades 2 (2001): 1910-1919.
Benson, Sonia. “The Great Gatsby.” UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History. 10 Apr. 2002. Gale U.S. History In Context. 9 Dec. 2010.
Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much About History. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925.
Hermsen, Sarah. “Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.” Dictionary of American Biography. 1 Dec. 1999. Gale U.S. History In Context. 10 Dec. 2010.
Hillstrom, Kevin. The Progressive Era. Farmington Hills: Lucent Books, 2009.
Yancey, Diane. Life During the Roaring Twenties. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2002.
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