The representation of the Jazz Age in the novel The Great Gatsby is shown through the characters, their lifestyles, and society as a whole. Each of these clearly reflects the customs and course of this time period. The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, is the prime example of the Jazz Age image. Another example is the change in women’s behavior and dress. Lastly, the wealth and fortune that is displayed throughout society plays a key role in the composition of the Jazz Age.
The Jazz Age was literally when Jazz music really came into its own and became the defining music of the people. The music played an important role in everybody’s lives and the level of playing at the time surpassed in quality any other period in history. The term Jazz Age encompasses the period of American history during the 1920’s. Culture itself during this period was undergoing changes that would inspire authors like Fitzgerald to write novels such as the Great Gatsby. In fact, it was this time period that The Great Gatsby was solely based on. People were careless and confident, and the Gatsby parties only encouraged them to continue their flamboyant behavior during this time period. Jay Gatsby uses this to his advantage by displaying the newly adored music at his parties and bringing people together to enjoy the happy times of the era. “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars” (Fitzgerald 39). Nick Carraway observes the gleaming parties and enjoyment of the guests throughout the night at his neighbor’s house. He thinks to himself what an extraordinary man this Gatsby must be but the magic does come from Gatsby. It arises from the magical time period and happiness of the roaring 20’s.
Women refused to give up the independence they had gained from the jobs the got during the war. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave them the right to vote, and they demanded to be recognized as equals. Women adopted a masculine look during the Jazz Age: they bobbed their hair, were more open about sex, quit wearing corsets, and smoked and drank in public. They also became more spontaneous and careless due to their new freedom. Their emotions and feelings took over and led them to doing what they believe is right for them. These qualities are clearly shown throughout the novel with the woman characters such as Daisy. “Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed. And all the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand” (Fitzgerald 151). Because of the dominance of men during this time, marriage was of central importance for a young woman’s future. Daisy’s restlessness without Gatsby makes sense; since society would be primarily concerned with her marriage plans.
Not all people of the Jazz Age were wealthy and famous, but most of the characters Fitzgerald wrote about were. Cultures focus shifted to glamour, advertising, consumer goods, new jazz music, automobiles, and magazines. The number of cars in America tripled during this 20’s. The Great Gatsby is about Jazz Age values, so the theme of wealth and poverty is very important to the novel. Characters like Tom, Daisy, and Jay try to fill their emptiness with material possessions. Tom and Daisy had an extremely expensive and beautiful car but Gatsby owned the most expensive car in the world. He flaunted his wealth by showing off his Rolls-Royce and living in an incredibly large home. For example Gatsby’s house is described as “a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden” (Fitzgerald 5), thus showing the magnificence in which Gatsby lives and a insight into how people lived
at that time. Money and wealth during this time period is the entry to a lavish life, great parties, and a world of extravagance.
The stunning similarity between The Great Gatsby, and the Jazz Age can be traced back to the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the early twentieth century. These insights to Fitzgerald’s way of living are present in the topics of his works as well as writing style. He represents the Jazz Age through numerous characters and their way of life. Society as a whole is greatly affected in the novel because of the desire to gain something new in life. This ranges from the music, attire, money, and even personalities. These concepts of a new way of life were captured in a snapshot of The Jazz Age in the classic work of literature The Great Gatsby.
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