What sense of life in the Jazz Age do we get from the description of the party in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Gatsby's parties, including the party in Chapter Three, when Gatsby meets Nick, are described as lavish affairs, full of conspicuous consumption. People show up uninvited to partake of sumptuous suppers (one at dinnertime and another after midnight) and everything is lashly decorated:

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. On buffet tables, 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. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and 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.

Many of Gatsby's partygoers arrive on boats, spending time at the beach outside his house. During the affairs, his house is like a city unto itself, with hundreds of people, many of whom are perfect strangers, coming and going. To the extent that this scene can be seen as representative of the Jazz Age, it is clear that Fitzgerald meant to portray the excess and, as previously noted, the conspicuous consumption associated with the era. Additionally, there is no sense of refinement that one might associate with great wealth. People behave, according to Nick, "according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks." Despite his own genteel manners, Gatsby's parties are filled with excess, and are ultimately a manifestation of his insecurity. 

 

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