In The Great Gatsby, how did the people with "new money" acquire it?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The decade of the 1920s was a time of economic boom and spiraling wealth for many. The term "The Roaring Twenties" captures the feeling of the times before the stock market crashed in 1929 and brought an abrupt halt to the money making and money spending sprees. During the 1920s, there were many sources of "new" money, some legal and some not. The sports and entertainment worlds were booming, creating many stars and those behind the scenes who built fortunes. Speculation on the stock market was wild and profits kept climbing, at least until the end of the period. Since alcohol was outlawed, bootleggers made lots of money supplying  alcohol to their customers during Prohibition. Prohibition contributed to the rise of some powerful gangsters who made money through any kind of illegal means. Many immigrants to the country realized their dreams in the booming economy and built successful businesses.

The names of Gatsby's party guests in Chapter 3 of the book indicate the variety of newly rich people who came to his parties. Many of them have ethnic names which suggest that they are immigrants or the children of immigrants. There are people from show business. Also, there is James B . (Rot-gut) Ferret, clearly a bootlegger, since "rot gut" was a reference to bathtub gin, alcohol made at home to avoid the restrictions of prohibition.

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The Great Gatsby

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