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By what methods does Fitzgerald present the Jazz Age Society

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Introduction

´╗┐Natasha Hunter ?By what methods does Fitzgerald present the Jazz Age Society?s preoccupation with wealth and materialism?? The ?Great Gatsby? was published in 1925 and was set in the ?Roaring Twenties?. This was a glamorous decade marked by cultural, artistic and social developments, but it was brought to an end by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the 1920s, America became very prosperous as the country recovered from World War I. There was a policy of Prohibition. This meant that alcohol was illegal, but the continued demand meant there was a lot of money to be made from bootlegging. It was a time of social change; the younger generation started to rebel against tradition. For many people, and particularly women, the war provided new experiences and freedom. After the war, there was a strong desire to try new and exciting things and to break from tradition. Jazz music became popular because it was more energetic than earlier music styles. Fitzgerald coined the term ?Jazz Age?. Flappers began to challenge traditional gender roles. Flappers were women who behaved in a way that was thought to be inappropriate by the older generation; they drank, smoked and wore revealing clothing. Fitzgerald sets ?The Great Gatsby? in an altered version of Long Island and Manhattan. Great Neck and Manhasset Neck become East and West Eggs, and the large landfill site Flushing is renamed the ?valley of ashes?. ...read more.

Middle

For example, Gatsby owns a beach, motor-boats and a Rolls-Royce and his parties are full of ?faces and voices and colour?. However, this society is contrasted with the poverty of those living near to the valley of ashes. The location of the valley of ashes between the wealthy Egg communities and New York makes the contrast stronger. There is also a constant sense that the glamorous lives of the upper classes are essentially meaningless; beneath the surface, everyone is bored because they have no purpose; Daisy seems to realise this when she asks what they should do ?this afternoon?and they day after that, and the next thirty years??. Many friendships appear superficial. For example, Gatsby?s parties are full of ?enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other?s names?. This shows that the society is full of pretence and loneliness. Many of Gatsby?s guests had tragic fates. For example, ?drowned?, ?strangled his wife?, ?killed himself?. This reinforces the message that behind the light-hearted partying, much of society was deeply unhappy. Fitzgerald?s portrayal invites the reader to be critical of the character?s empty, materialistic lives while simultaneously making those lives seem exciting and beautiful. This reflects his own attitude towards wealth. The characters are defined by their relationship with money; it affects how they act, how they see themselves and how others see them; Nick is confused about how to respond to wealth and decadence. ...read more.

Conclusion

Fitzgerald thought that the ?Jazz Age? was hypocritical and this is reflected by Tom?s behaviour; he is appalled when he learns of Daisy?s affair with Gatsby, but he has lots of affairs himself. He criticises Gatsby for ?sneering at family life?, but ?was God knows where? when his daughter was born. He also criticises Gatsby for knowing criminals and for being a bootlegger, but Tom also knows criminals and he likes to drink, which shows that he doesn?t follow the prohibition laws either. He sets a high moral standard for other people, such as Gatsby, but has no morals himself. Nick notes that he moves ?from libertine to prig? to suit his needs. Tom?s wealth and sense of superiority makes him ?careless? and uncaring. Nick summarises Tom and Daisy?s behaviour when he says ?they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money?and let other people clean up the mess??. They run away from their problems and never face the consequences. He acts as a foil to Gatsby; Gatsby is loyal, sensitive and caring whilst Tom is more or less the opposite. For example, he only seems to start caring for Daisy when he sees he could lose her. This suggests his reaction is as much about pride and possessiveness as about actually caring for her. The fact that Daisy chooses Tom over Gatsby highlights the shallow and materialistic nature of the ?Jazz Age? society. Like Daisy, Tom is materialistic; he has to appear to have the best of everything. For example, he was married with ?more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew?. ...read more.

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