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The 1920's and The Great Gatsby

Connections through historical perspectives

The Jazz Age and the Roaring 20?s are just a couple of the names coined for this interesting era of increased pleasure and changing attitudes that redefined a still young nation. Being pulled into one if not the greatest wars of all time began a journey for America. During the war thousands of people endured great hardship and misery. The nation was concentrating on war not fun. Upon the return of the soldiers people wanted some relief and enjoyment. This feeling came through the revolutionary attitudes of the 1920?s. Though the war was grave it triggered a command over how America would forever be influenced. Prosperity created a new found culture dominated by material objects and position in society coupled with the help of many outlandishly extravagant parties. Much of the nation began to further itself from its once ruling moral values and embarked on a journey of self interest and financial success. No one novel or one man for that matter has captivated such an era as that of F. Scott Fitzgerald?s The Great Gatsby.
Experiencing first hand the life of a characteristic 1920?s individual, Fitzgerald participated in every aspect of surplus and extravagance. The Great Gatsby begins with the nonjudgmental man Nick Carraway moving to as he describes ?the ragged edge of the universe after his many adventures experienced in the war.? After arriving to his new home Nick meets with his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom Buchanan and their friend Jordan Baker. Within the discovery of Tom?s mistress and Daisy?s bored unhappiness, he hears through many quickly forgotten words and unfinished conversations of a Mr. Gatsby, a next door neighbor of Nick?s. This builds up a mysterious fervor into a growing infatuation of curiosity. After meeting Gatsby the enigma still stands for the only thing Nick is certain about is Gatsby?s hopeless love for Daisy. Gatsby?s undying affection for his lost love finds hope in that one night Daisy will wander accidentally into one of his stranger filled parties personified by his longing gaze toward a solitary green light blinking near Daisy?s presence. Gatsby finally receives his desire when he and Daisy rekindle their love but to a fruitless and ironic outcome. Preceding a journey to an end of death and despair is a story filled with excessive leisure, bored and spoilt women, the tension of position in society, of counterfeit cares and love and ?the abortive sorrows of men? So poses the question of what connections are formed in this great American novel due to the influences of this major turning point of America.
Ideas, thoughts and attitudes have always been around yet with the 1920?s come along the period to readily transfer those ideas, thoughts and attitudes. The automobile allowed citizens of the era to explore

the world around them creating a greatly increased social order. The Great Gatsby included the luxury of such travel. They came with their cars by the hundreds in search of a place to extend their social image and satisfy their need for entertainment and excitement. The car symbolized the freedom to exchange differing opinions and outlooks on life. As quoted by Henry Ford near this time was the statement, ?You can have any color car you want as long as it?s black.? Cars of color were rare and one had to have been considerably wealthy to indulge in the lavishness of such a vehicle. Gatsby was the owner of a yellow car. ?With its bulges and creamy yellow shade?? Gatsby acquired a car the farthest color from black without being white. This shows Gatsby?s pride in his wealth. One may also point out the twist of irony associated, for if Gatsby had not shown so much pride to have a yellow car he may never have been so easily spotted in the connection of Mrytle?s death, causing in fact his own.
Bootlegging was a common business in the 1920?s but for Jay Gatsby it was a means to an end. Though Gatsby? involvement wasn?t certain there was a great deal of suspicion and the accusation of Tom leading to this assumption. ?I found out what your ?drug stores? were,? he turned to us and spoke rapidly. ?He and this Wolfsheim bought up a whole lot of side street drug stores here and there and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That?s one of their little stunts. I picked for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn?t far wrong.? The booming underground business for Gatsby was a lead to quick riches. With the help of his immoral business partner and ?friend? Wolsheim, Jay Gatsby was made into a man of quick and easy riches. Gatsby had a dream, a dream of acquiring that green light representing two things the color of the U.S. currency and the selfish and superficial love of Daisy Faye. No price was too high to achieve that dream. Whether he would become a law-breaker mattered not; it was a suitable price for his dream. He set out to relive the past, and he believed that he could accomplish that. "'I wouldn't ask too much of her,' I ventured. ?You can't repeat the past. ''Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'" Thus to achieve his fame and fortune in order to gain Daisy?s love he resorted to bootlegging, the illegal business at that time.
New York in the 1920?s buzzed with new stylish trends and amoral attitudes. Most during that time considered New York to be the center of cultural development. Within this center were the sub-contrasting areas, West Egg and East Egg. ?The more fashionable of the two by far was East Egg with its

white palaces.? East Egg was a majority of wealthy aristocrats inherited by the passing generations. West Egg the place inhibited by Gatsby was the area of the recent wealthy generation. Clothed by all the fineries money could acquire. Yet by the eye either side could be mistaken for the other, Gatsby still inhibited the innate qualities of the poor personality he once had at the time of his first love with Daisy. These two contrasting areas fed the stereotype that it is possible to move the boy out of the poor but not the poor out of the boy.
During this time of grand disillusionment the free attitudes of women reigned. Women began to require more than just a good person they demanded a security of their leisurely lifestyles. Though women are not entirely at fault the 1920?s marked a changing trend in the marriage to divorce ratio, where divorces were occurring at a growing rate. In the Great Gatsby five years prior to the time of this story Jay and Daisy were in ?love? a feeling proven superficial with Daisy?s philosophy that ?Rich girls can?t marry poor boys.? One can also see the pessimistic perception of Daisy when she says her wish for her daughter is that she will grow up a beautiful little fool, because that?s all girls can be, beautiful little fools.? Perhaps Daisy believes that her superficiality stems from the vain struggle women must endure for individualism. So in turn Daisy hopes her daughter will simply attach herself to the best suited in order to give her a life free of conflict.
?When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way. I keep out. When I was a young man it was different - if a friend of mine died, no matter how, I stuck with them to the end. You may think that's sentimental, but I mean it - to the bitter end.? ?Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead,' he suggested. After that, my own rule is to let everything alone.?
Wolfsheim believes that by not attending Gatsby?s funeral he is thereby showing respect which in fact is merely an illusion. His heart knows the actual disrespect he has shown to Gatsby. But equivalent to the times he believes in the in the illusion of self interest. He believes he is right and he won?t do anything to change that.
?And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was

already behind him; somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further ? And one fine morning -So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.? In fact, many people at that time believed in the green light. The green light, which represents our future. The green light does not only represent the future, it represents our dreams, our aspirations, everything we hope will happen in the future. The quote above is not just a statement about Gatsby, as The Great Gatsby is not just about Gatsby's dream. It is the story of all our dreaming. The quote above is not just a quote. It is a definition. What it defines is what is possible, what we can do. Whether it defines the Meaning of Life, nobody knows, as nobody knows the true Meaning of Life. But what it defines is important to all of us. It defines what we hold in our hearts, what we hold in our minds. It defines what some call the American Dream, and what others call the truth.

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