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Background to The Great Gatsby. World War I. Post WWI. Standard of living increased for most Americans abandoned small towns in exchange for urban living Economy prospered as Americans tried to forget troubles of war - frivolous spending - illegal liquor - immorality.

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Background to The Great Gatsby

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post wwi
Post WWI
  • Standard of living increased for most
  • Americans abandoned small towns in exchange for urban living
  • Economy prospered as Americans tried to forget troubles of war

- frivolous spending

- illegal liquor

- immorality

the 1920s nicknames
The 1920s: Nicknames
  • The Roaring ‘20s
  • The Jazz Age
  • The Flapper Era
  • The Aspirin Age
  • The Age of Wonderful Nonsense
1920 s context
1920’s Context

WWI made Americans question traditional ideals.

Literature and art denied foundations of the past and went for the new.

The philosophy of the Jazz Age was called “modernism."

  • Modernism was an artistic trend that sought to find new ways to communicate
  • Writers stripped away descriptions of characters and setting and avoided direct statements of themes and resolutions
  • This “fragmented” style of writing enabled the reader to choose meaning for himself, believing life had no meaning.
the jazz age roaring twenties
The Jazz Age / Roaring Twenties
  • 1918-1929: the years after the end of World War I, continuing through the Roaring Twenties and ending with the rise of the Great Depression.
  • The age takes its name from jazz, which saw a tremendous surge in popularity among many segments of society.
  • Jazz music set exalted standards – Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington
  • This was a period of pleasure seeking & reckless exuberance
  • Most of Fitzgerald’s stories provide a picture of youthful hedonism and the antics of the liberated young women known as “flappers”, affronting conventional values with short skirts, short hair and make-up.
  • 18th Amendment to Constitution prohibited manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages
  • Thousands turned to bootlegging
  • Mob activity increased to supply the demand for what was once legal
more 1920 s
More 1920’s
  • This period has been referred to as “The Lost Generation”.
  • Hemingway, in his novel The Sun Also Rises depicts a group of expatriate Americans, wandering aimlessly through Europe, sensing that they are powerless and that life is pointless in the aftermath of the Great War.
  • The Great Gatsby can be seen to encapsulate this perception of life without purpose, of restlessness, dissatisfaction and drifting. It was published in the middle of the decade and reveals a mindless quest for pleasure and a loss of direction in life.
historical connections
Historical Connections
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote and set The Great Gatsby in the United States in the 1920s.
  • The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age." Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roaring" 1920s as the economy soared.
  • At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime.
  • Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamor of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it.
conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous Consumption
  • This term was originally coined to refer to the rise & power of extremely rich businessmen, who displayed their wealth in ostentatious houses & extravagant behaviour.
  • This was invariably wasteful & implied increasing poverty among the lower classes in society.
advertising the mass market
Advertising & the mass market
  • By the time The Great Gatsbywas published, the American population had almost doubled.
  • solution = mass production.
  • Led to technological development - cars, air travel and the telephone - as well as new modernist trends in social behaviour, the arts, and culture. Central developments included Art Deco design and architecture.
  • This growth in commodities led to standardisation, where all citizens might have the right to buy items that were available to all.
  • The early years saw a corresponding change in advertising – products were given brand names as a sign of reliability. But new advertising also sought to create the desire for commodities & packaging became more important
f scott fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Born in Minnesota in 1896
  • Started writing in school - finished his first play in 1911
  • In 1914 he met and fell in love with a girl who rejected him because he was not rich enough.
  • In 1917 he received a commission as an infantry second lieutenant.
  • In 1918 he reported to Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met Zelda Sayre, who later became his wife.
the great gatsby
The Great Gatsby
  • After the birth of their child, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neck, Long Island in October 1922, appropriating Great Neck as the setting for The Great Gatsby.
  • Fitzgerald's neighbours included newly wealthy New Yorkers. Great Neck, on the shores of Long Island Sound, sat across a bay from Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck Peninsula, and was home to many of New York's wealthiest established families. In his novel, Great Neck became the new-money peninsula of "West Egg" and Manhasset Neck the old-money peninsula of "East Egg".
f scott fitzgerald1
F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • His died in 1940 Despite having once been the golden boy of the Jazz Age, upon his death, many of his obituaries were condescending, capitalizing on his personal hardships. Not one of his books remained in print and every indication suggested he was on his way into obscurity.
  • However, after World War II, interest in his work began to grow and by the 1960s, he had begun to secure a place among the great twentieth century American authors.
  • His works provide a valuable voice for exploring themes of ambition, justice, equity, and the American dream—themes that are still current—affording him with a well-deserved place in the American literary canon
  • Jazz Age / Roaring Twenties
  • Long Island and USA
  • The American Dream
  • Position of women
  • The Automobile
  • Prohibition & organized crime
  • Success & failure
  • Hope & sense of purpose
  • Role of time
  • Conflict betw. Illusion & reality
  • Honesty vs lies
  • Eyes
  • The East & the West
  • Dust & ash
  • Money & wealth (old vs new)
  • Significance of colours
  • Gatsby
  • Daisy Buchanan
  • Tom Buchanan
  • Jordan Baker
  • Nick Carraway (Narration)
  • Myrtle Wilson
  • George Wilson
  • Meyer Wolfshiem