At one point in America's past, the American Dream consisted of noble goals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, as the plot of The Great Gatsby picks up around 1922, just four years after the end of World War I, the nation is in the midst of economic prosperity that they have not seen before. The stock market provided an opportunity for wealth to almost anyone who invested wisely (and had a bit of luck), and when Prohibition began in 1920 via the 18th Amendment, a new subculture arose for the manufacture and distribution of illegal alcohol. Thus, people could also acquire wealth through some pretty shady dealings (at least according to the laws of that time).
This culture was no longer focused on an American Dream seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They sought material wealth and excess as had not been seen previously in America. Indeed, Gatsby himself seems to have made his fortunes in some sort of bootlegging dealings.
Suddenly, honor takes a backseat...
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