November 22, 2018
The Roaring Twenties
A new way of life came to be after the harshness of the first World War. It stemmed from new mass production industry, thriving parties, and the new coming of sudden wealth known as the Roaring Twenties, or as Fitzgerald said it, the Jazz Age. The Jazz Age, 1920s, was a time of great ambition, wealth, flappers, roaring parties, misery and lots of disappointment. The Great Gatsby is a perfect example of this decade; it illustrates one mans burning desire towards the American dream and every aspect that came with it. The characters, their wild lifestyles and the society, all clearly reflect and define the course of the Jazz Era. Jay Gatsby, being the first to pop out as a man of the Jazz Age. Next, womens’ independence, and their drastic change in hairstyles and clothing choice. Lastly, the wealth displayed throughout the society in The Great Gatsby is another major example of the growth of the Jazz Age.
Jazz music was literally born around the 1920s, claiming this era, and defining its people. Jazz music played a major role in the peoples lived and how much it was played exceeded that of any other time period. The term Jazz Age encompasses the American History in the 1920s when World War I was ending, and cultural changes were being put into action, inspiring authors, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald to write novels constructed from this era. The Great Gatsby was built mainly on the Jazz Age; carelessness, confidence, champagne, flappers and dance. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist in the novel, threw extravagant parties only to encourage the colorful behavior. “There was music through my neighbors house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and women came like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars” (Fitzgerald 39). Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book and the man who comes to be Gatsbys best friend, finds enjoyment in observing the magical parties and thinks to himself what an extraordinary man this Gatsby must be. But in all honesty, it wasn’t Gatsby himself who created the magic, it was the rise of Jazz music, and the mentalities of all the wild, beautiful people of the Roaring Twenties.
During World War I, women gained independence from the jobs they were given, and refused to give them up, they wanted to be treated as equals. Women transformed their looks completely; they were more open about sex, wore their hair in a shorter bobbed style, hung gaudy beads from their slender necks, along with slinky, loose and noticeably shorter dresses, becoming an icon of the decade known as flappers. Desire was an important attribute in being a flapper. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a flapper (in the 1920s) is a fashionable young woman intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behavior. The new freedom they were given made them wilder and more careless. The speakeasies, underground clubs, were the first places where a woman who was not a prostitute, could smoke and drink in public while enjoying the newly popular jazz music. Fitzgerald did a phenomenal job of showing these qualities in Jordan Baker, a close friend of Daisy Buchanan, Gatsbys true love. She is the perfect representation for the principles of flappers; beautiful, boyish, cynical, self-centered and bored easily. Jordan cheated at golf to gain success and had a strong desire to drink, smoke, and dance energetically to the harmonic sounds of strange instruments. “‘Let’s get out,” whispered Jordan after a somehow wasteful and inappropriate half hour; ‘this is much too polite for me'” (Fitzgerald 46). Daisy, embodying some of the values of flappers in the Jazz Age, represents the traditional female letting others make decisions for her. This novel shows that she was never taught to be a woman, nor will she ever; she is only expected to be a ‘beautiful little fool.’
Fitzgerald also used Tom and Daisy to show the major changes of American life in the 1920s. One of the major behavior changes in the Jazz Age was people being more concerned with themselves rather than that of anyone else. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (Fitzgerald 183). They left without sending a flower, or goodbye letting Gatsby die going down for a murder Daisy committed, showing the common self-centered mentality of people around that era.
Not all people in the 1920s had wealth and fame, but the majority that Fitzgerald wrote about did. The cultures of the population shifted into glamour, parties, stunning new automobiles, modern mass production, and thriving bull markets making this a great time to be rich. The production of cars tripled in the 1920s in order to help people brag about their wealth and social status. “It was a rich cream color, bright and there in it’s monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns” (Fitzgerald 33). Gatsby used the yellow of the car to attract Daisy and show the achievement of his wealth to win her back. Since The Great Gatsby revolves around the Jazz Age, the image of poverty and wealth are central themes throughout the novel. The characters such as Jay, Tom and Daisy were the perfect example of wealth, and the use of it to fill the emptiness in them. Whether it be old money, Tom and Daisy, or new money, Jay Gatsby, all three had expensive materialistic taste. Fitzgerald described Gatsbys house as a colossal affair by any standard-a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy…This showing the magnificence of how Gatsby and many others tended to live in that time. Everyone in the Jazz Age wanted wealth and high social status to live the lavish lifestyle with phenomenal parties and the American dream.
All of Fitzgeralds novels, including The Great Gatsby, are set in locations where he himself actually lived for a significant period of time. He based The Great Gatsby on his life experience during the Jazz Age, and made a stunning similarity between the two. His wife, Zelda Sayre (Fitzgerald), was beautiful and charming, and had a voice that sounded like money, the type of girl who was intent on enjoying herself and would do cartwheels on the dance floor out of boredom, a free-spirited flapper. His wife sounds like all of the flappers Fitzgerald described in this novel. The insights on Fitzgeralds life, such as the one previously stated, are present in The Great Gatsby, as well as many of his other published works and writing styles. From theme, characters, and their way of life he made great representation of the Jazz Age and what it means to live during that period. A major desire to gain something new whether it be music, money, clothing, social mores, or the changing of personalities. F. Scott Fitzgeralds name for the 1920s, the Jazz Age, was a time of major desire to gain something new in life, a wild economic boom, cultural growth, and the social ways of life. All aspects of music, clothing, dance, and wealth of ‘the age of miracles’ were perfectly captured by Fitzgerald in one of his greatest works known as The Great Gatsby.
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Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Flappers in the Roaring Twenties: Not Their Mother’s Gibson Girl.” Thoughtco., Dotdash, www.thoughtco.com/flappers-in-the-roaring-twenties-1779240
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Economy in The 1920s.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/1920s/economy.html.
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SparkNotes, SparkNotes, www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatsby/character/jordan-baker/.