The Jazz Age (roaring twenties) and what role it had on Fitzgerald's perceptions of America.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald's perceptions of the roaring twenties can probably be best seen in chapter three, the chapter that contains the elaborate descriptions of one of Gatsby's parties.

Nick says:

At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. (44)

The buffet tables are "garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold" 44).  Extravagance is also evident in the bar, which is stocked with "gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another (44), and the band is no band, but an orchestra, with "a whole pit full of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and high drums" (44).

And the people at the party appear to be wealthy, to have a great deal of idle time, to be freeloaders, to come to the party even though they are not invited, and to be extremely reckless and careless. 

The majority of people at the party "were not invited" (45) and "conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks" (45).  Lucille is one example:  "I never care what I do, so I always have a good time " (45).  And recklessness and carelessness are further demonstrated in the final party scene with its drunk driving and wrecked car and hurt driver and gawking spectators.  This, apparently, reveals the author's perception of the roaring twenties.   

The novel as a whole shows the American Dream to be a sordid myth--one achieves it only at great personal and ethical costs, and it is in some ways an illusion and hollow.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1920s, the United States became a place where more and more people were getting rich.  It also became a place where there were more kinds of goods available to people.  They started to focus more on doing things for fun because they had the time and the resources to do more fun stuff.

You can really see this reflected in The Great Gatsby.  The book is full of rich people who seem to do nothing but have "fun."  The people who come to Gatsby's parties are mostly rich and they have a lot of time on their hands.

Fitzgerald clearly thinks that these changes in America were really doing bad things to the society.  You can see that from how negatively Fitzgerald portrays most ofthe rich people in the story.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the mass consumption and excess that was evident in the 1920s helped to feed Fitzgerald's perception of America.  The "Jazz Age" and all of its trappings entranced Fitzgerald.  In narratives such as "The Great Gatsby" or "Winter Dreams," one sees how Fitzgerald perceived how the social order perceived wealth.  In such a setting, to have money meant to have power and created a sense of value.  The idea of social orders manipulating value and wealth to be one in the same thing and ensuring that people were seen as means to ends as opposed to ends in their own right helped to create a recurring theme in Fitzgerald's works and his perception of society.

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The Great Gatsby

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