The Great Gatsby: Character Flaws Enhanced and Hidden by Society The 1920s have long been remembered as the "Roaring Twenties," an important historical and unique era of time. As a soaring stock market minted millionaires by the thousands, young Americans in the nation's biggest cities rejected traditional social mores by embracing a modern urban culture of freedom, drinking illegally in speakeasies, dancing provocatively, and “Letting the Good Times Roll,” a popular and fitting phrase for this time period. For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929, and this economic growth “swept many Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar ‘consumer society’” (Jonathan). People from coast to coast bought the same consumer goods, listened to the same music, did the same dances and even used the same slang. Along with the fun and new times, came the serious crime. During the 1920s, some freedoms were expanded while others were limited. The 18th Amendment, “The Volstead Act”, banned the manufacture and sale of “intoxicating liquors,” which closed every tavern, bar and saloon in the United States. From then on, it was illegal to sell any intoxication beverages with more than 0.5% alcohol. This drove to organized crime due to people creating illegal speakeasies instead of ordinary bars. These underground bars were controlled by bootleggers, racketeers and other organized-crime figures such as Chicago gangster Al Capone. The 1920’s were filled with fun, conformity, and crime (The Roaring). Most young people in America wanted to be apart of the new modern culture, and for this reason, America was completely transformed. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald exhibits the many conflicts of the 1920’s in Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway by showing how their character flaws are enhanced and created due to the Modern Eastern Society.
Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway move to the Modern East in search of something missing in their lives. Gatsby is a millionaire falling into the category of the newly wealthy people. Gatsby’s particular story of how he became a wealthy member of society distorts and confuses his own character flaws and issues. Gatsby was raised in a poor home with farmers as parents, and he becomes well aware of the major gap between the wealthy and the poor when he meets Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby falls in love with Daisy, a daughter of a prominent and wealthy family of Louisville, and he learns her parents will never accept him due to his social status. It is this very problem that motivates Gatsby to become a well-known, wealthy, citizen of the West Egg. Gatsby realized that he must conform into a wealthy man of the modern east to ever be in Daisy’s life. Gatsby comes to the East solely in search of Daisy. His whole life post meeting Daisy consists of becoming the ideal husband for Daisy, and moving to New York was the easiest way to achieve this goal.
Nick Carraway is a young adult, striving to live “in the moment” of the roaring twenties. He was raised in the Middle West, filled with morals, values, and tradition. As all of the great promises of the twenties arose, Nick thought the “Middle west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe- so [he] decided to go east and learn the bond business” (Fitzgerald 3). Nick does not go to the East in search of a job or even a significant other; he moves to the East to essentially “let the good times roll” and experience the modern and fun way of life the twenties promised.
To survive in the modern eastern society, Gatsby “defies oppressive society by trying to conform to it,” and this in return twists and warps his values and morals to where his true character is hidden completely and transformed into immoral chaos (Heimis 59). Because Gatsby is from a poor family, he must himself earn money to begin his journey to obtain Daisy. During the twenties, the ‘bootlegging’ business was an easy...
Cited: Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner trade paperback. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.
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Heimis, Neil. "Paradox, Ambiguity, and the Challenge to Judgment." 58-71. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. .
Jonathan, James. "Literary Characters: Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby." Helium. N.p., 12 May 2010. Web. 29 Jan 2013. .
Joseph, Teressa. "Gatsby’s Major Flaw." 27 May 2009. ENotes, Web. 29 Jan. 2013. .
"The Roaring Twenties." History. A&E Television Networks. Web. 29 Jan 2013. .
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