Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gatsby Essay

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Roaring 20’s in The Great Gatsby In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the plot is centered in the postwar cultural capital of the Anglo-American world: New York. The post-war economy and atmosphere resulting from the Great War play a vital role in the outcome of the novel, as it is a critical element in the portrayal of both Tom and Gatsby. The culture of the underground crime in the 1920’s hinted throughout the novel is a direct result of Prohibition. After World War I, the United States Congress passed a law that was added to the 18th amendment of the Constitution which banned the sale, importation, production, and transportation of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933, causing much controversy and leading to one of the rowdiest times in American history (Timberlake). For example, the “drunken excess” is showed very often in Gatsby’s extravagant parties, which shows the popularity of underground alcohol consumption . The issues of Prohibition are hinted often in the novel, showing the less-admirable side of Gatsby. Fitzgerald seems to suggest how Gatsby has made his fortune when Tom says Daisy would not fall for a “common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger” (142). It is made more evident later on when Tom states, “I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were,” referring to Gatsby’s involvement in the illegal underground bootlegging of alcohol with the notorious Meyer Wolfsheim; with his involvement apparent, the image of Gatsby is drastically altered (143). Arguably, no longer is Gatsby an admirable business man who has worked his way up from the bottom with hard work, but now is portrayed as a dishonest bootlegger who obtained his money through illegal transactions, whether Tom’s accusations are true or not. In contrast, it is shown in the novel that Tom has not had a demanding life when it comes to his financial state. Early in the novel, Nick classifies Tom as a “millionaire by inheritance” when he says, “His family were enormously wealthy…it is hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that,” which implies the history of financial success Buchanan has had (Fitzgerald 8, Lena 20-21). This creates a sharp contrast between Gatsby and Tom. Moreover, since the allegations of Gatsby are only hinted in the novel and not explored, it leaves the reader to develop his/her own opinion on Gatsby. Although his financial “success” may not be admirable, his tenacity for his love most definitely is. This self-confliction that occurs within the reader of whether or not Gatsby is a commendable character is a unique component Fitzgerald instills in his novel through his clever use of the setting, which also helps enhance the mystery behind Gatsby. Furthermore, this brings up questions about Tom’s character. His hypocrisy is visible in his argument with Gatsby. Who is he to talk about fidelity and dishonesty when has had an affair with Myrtle throughout the entire novel? After World War I, the major economic boom that transpires results in a major fluctuation in attitude of the American population, which is a key element in the atmosphere Fitzgerald is trying to portray in his novel; this economic boom was a result of the complete shift in the ideological philosophy of the American population, the rapid growth of innovation, and a drastic increase of jobs available. The government started their idea of “Laissez-Faire capitalism,” which is when the governments would not regulate major businesses as much, which left these businesses in the ideal environment to thrive. For example, Congress adopted policies that drastically reduced the tax payments these financial superpowers had to pay. President Calvin Coolidge, one of the presidents during this elated time, even went as far as to say that “...the chief business of the American people is business” (Green). For the first time in American history, the urban population outnumbered the rural population, due to the American people