Once World War I ended in 1918, the United States experienced groundbreaking economic growth. “The Roaring Twenties” and what F. Scott Fitzgerald would call “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history” have come to characterize America during all of its innovation. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the readers are exposed to the rich and luxurious lives of the upscale east coasters in the midst of one of the most rambunctious time periods in American history. Although the 1920s was a period of great anticipation, Fitzgerald is able to express a critical portrayal of the wealthy Americans during this decade.
In the early 1920’s, Alcohol flowed like water throughout the country. Drunkards occupied most of America’s jails and poorhouses and an association of activists made it their goal to expunge liquor as an attempt to help the country go back to simpler times (Altman). The movement which is known as Prohibition, was meant to abolish the liquor temptation, but it had the accidental effect of converting lawful citizens into criminals.
The government’s action of excluding liquor from the masses unintentionally made the substance more alluring, trendy, and something that people needed to get their hands on. During Prohibition, both cocktails and finger food gained popularity and became fashionable. If one had the ability to supply their guests with a limitless flow of alcoholic drinks, his or her adoration and reputation was set.
Furthermore, if one was determined and daring enough to invest in the bootlegging business-illegal traffic in liquor, their prosperity was sure to be established. As the command for illegal liquor heightened, the mechanisms for disguising its manufacturing and consumption also increased. Regardless of the situation, it appeared that Americans were still enjoying themselves during Prohibition. Fitzgerald is able to capture these wild and careless societal behaviors brought about by the Prohibition in his novel The Great Gatsby. The millionaire character Jay Gatsby embodies ultimate 1920s wealth and corruption. Gatsby commits himself and his life to acquiring money and possessions in order to captivate the attention of his romantic fixation, the stunning yet damaged Daisy Buchanan.
Gatsby’s exorbitant parties thrown from his north shore Long Island mansion make his prosperity indisputable. These self-indulgent parties, abounding with food like “pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold” along with gins and liquors that have “cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from the other” (Fitzgerald), represent the desire for idolization not only from a specific person, like Daisy, but also from other wealthy citizens. Fitzgerald also uses Gatsby’s character in order to exemplify fortune earned through bootlegging. This money is how Gatsby is able to fund his extravagant parties with bottomless cocktails to spare.
Fitzgerald incorporates the Prohibition behaviors of throwing parties and bootlegging in the novel in order to show that lavishness and wealth in the 1920s came with dishonesty and selfishness.