How does Fitzgerald use Gatsby's parties to present a satirical portrait of the Roaring Twenties?
The notion of a party is one in which the guests arrive to honor a particular individual. It is communal, in its nature, and is meant to be one of the purest expressions of joy at the collective notion of being. Fitzgerald satirizes this in order to make a larger point in his work. The people at Gatsby's parties are not immediately known to him. They are hangers- on, individuals who arrive at his party to stay until they are kicked out onto the next party. The most communal of experiences actually ends up becoming one of the most alienating. Guests don't know one another. Rather, they know about one another through innuendo and gossip. For Fitzgerald, his use of satirizing Gatsby's party is meant to make a larger statement about the time period of the 1920s. This was not a time period where individuals withdrew to revel in the joy of other people's company. Rather, individuals used this excuse to withdraw further into themselves without any real reflection or introspection about the nature of their own identity. Celebrity and image, so prevalent in Gatsby's party, was used to take the place of real and valid communication. The part becomes the central location where this glib substance underneath the shimmering surface becomes a critical symbol for the corrosion that is so much a part of Fitzgerald's vision of the 1920s. It is here where Fitzgerald's use of Gatsby's parties becomes a larger picture of the time period.
He uses the parties to satirize the Roaring Twenties by providing a place in the novel for contradictions to be displayed. The people invited all show the moral corruption of the time and the reckless pursuit of material wealth and material goods. This depiction of the noveau riche satirizes the empty pursuit of material wealth.
No one seems happy despite the beautiful surroundings and costumes. It is all an illusion. For example, although Gatsby throws parties and has many 'friends' he is in fact a lonely man. This is highlighted by the fact that almost none of the party- goers attend his funeral.
Included in his parties are various 'types' which are intended to be a satire on the times. We have the gaudy vaudeville, theater and the 'moving picture' people who have become wealthy quickly through the at the time new film industry. In Chapter Four, Nick gives us a list of the people who came to the party. From East Egg came doctors and the like and from West Egg, we have the noveau riche. "From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys... all connected with the movies in one way or another." (Chapter Four) And the list goes on to include a man who later strangled his wife and a gambler.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald'sThe Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick Carraway accompanies, yet stands apart from, his very wealthy and very immoral friends, the married couple Tom and Daisy. Tom and Daisy and their many rich, shallow friends, care nothing for one another; their lives are spent going from one lavish social engagement to the next. Gatsby house is one of their most frequent stops. Gatsby serves his guests the most expensive dishes; the champagne flows freely all night and into the mornings in his mansion with its marble floors and crystal chandeliers. As Nick discovers when he attends his first Gatsby party, however, Gatsby's guests are not his friends.
Nick finds Gatsby all alone by himself, away from his guests. They are simply using him, and he allows them to do so in the hopes that Daisy will be impressed with his fortune and leave Tom to be with him. In short, the parties thrown by this self-made man--Nick discovers after Gatsby's death that he came from the humblest of beginnings--are a waste of money and effort: Daisy will never love Gatsby because, money or no, he is not of her social class. So his attempts to impress her with all he has achieved are for naught. The twenties, a time of plenty, in which men like Gatsby made their millions, was less a time of success than it was a time of excess. Spoiled and idle, Gatsby's partygoers treat Gatsby and each other as expendable. All they care about is having a good time. So the plenty they have is not appreciated or conserved; their wealth destroys them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. They treat one another as if they are disposable, like the money they spend so quickly. The parties show a society that seems on the surface to reflect happiness and prosperity, when really, it is a society in moral decay.