The Great Gatsby and Jazz Essay

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The Jazz Age and Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the great novel of the Lawless Decade—the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age, as it was otherwise known. It was a time of easy credit and flowing cash. It was a time of Prohibition, when alcohol had been outlawed and people looking for a good time had to go underground to the speakeasies, where they drank their liquor in hiding. To be human meant to be a criminal, and thus everyone who wanted to have a drink became a scofflaw. The 1920s was the decade of the scofflaw, the decade of excess and the decade of the nouveau riche—the ones who, like Jay Gatsby, made their millions from bootlegging or from the stock market or from both. Nothing captured the essence of the post-war 1920s like jazz, which was a new kind of music in America—a music that was fast and loose and flowing: it had no care or concern for the old world culture and was primarily its own thing—good for dancing (ragtime) and good for drinking (anytime). This paper will describe the significance of the jazz age in The Great Gatsby and show how the excess and superficiality that characterized Gatsby’s world was best represented by the superficiality of the swinging Jazz Age.

Some of the most predominant characteristics of the Jazz Age were the flappers, the nouveau riche, and the festivities—all of which are present in The Great Gatsby. On the surface, everyone is having a great time, but underneath it all, as Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel notes, something dark and strange is happening: there is no moral order beneath any of it. There is only impulse, desire, and senseless action. This is why Nick at the outset frames his story in these terms: “When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart” (Fitzgerald 2). He states this because he has just spent some time on the East Coast, hobnobbing among the wealthy class, with his cousin Daisy, who is married to Tom. Tom represents old money.
Jay Gatsby represents new money. Jay is in love with Daisy from days gone by and does not care that she is now married. Though Jay is now rich and throws elaborate parties, the only reason he does so is because he hopes she will take notice, come to his mansion and be his once more. It is a dream, but one he pursues—and ultimately…

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…Jazz Age was.

For in 1929, the Jazz Age would come to a terrible halt with the market crash of October of that year and the ensuing Great Depression that would last well into the 1930s. The Depression Era was essentially the long-coming Hangover of the Jazz Age. The central banks were cut the credit supply short after helping to fuel the stock market bubble thanks to the excess credit, which is what had largely kept the party going throughout the 1920s. When the crash hit, margins were called and people panicked. It was the same thing that happens in the end of the novel. When Tom comes calling and confronts Daisy and Gatsby, she returns to her husband. Gatsby is crushed: his dream of romance with Daisy going on uninterruptedly is dashed—just like the market crash dashed the good times that everyone was enjoying.

Thus, the Jazz Age serves as the perfect backdrop for the shallowness and superficiality of The Great Gatsby. It represents a moment in time when America was flush with cash and careless about the rules, the laws, or morality—none of it mattered because America had won the war and the party was on. That mentality is what helped push Gatsby towards his tragic fate. It is ultimately what turned Nick off from all of it. And it….....

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Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Simon and Schuster, 2003.

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https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essays/great-gatsby-jazz-essay