As a time of great change and a decade of growth, the 1920s revealed the development of a new and defiant lifestyle. Within the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an influential man by the name of Jay Gatsby becomes the image of the American Dream, fueled by his desire to win over Daisy Buchanan. Influenced by the freewheeling nature of the times, Gatsby goes against what society deems as righteous in order to reinvent his identity. Through Fitzgerald’s discouraging tone toward the Roaring 20s, he shows how many people have pushed aside their morals in order to adapt to the different lifestyles of their decade.
New fashion, rebellious attitudes, and lively music are the factors that led Fitzgerald to name this era the “Jazz Age.” The birth of jazz, credited to African Americans, became increasingly popular and a highly desired commodity within society as it moved north from New Orleans to New York City. As jazz continued to expand, the young and wealthy suddenly became influenced by the “…whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols, and low and high drums” (Fitzgerald, 40) and decided to rebel against the traditional culture of past generations. For Gatsby, living within this evolving community of “black music” and carefree culture greatly impacted his weekly lavish parties where”…notorious contraltos sung in jazz, and vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky” (Fitzgerald, 46). The enjoyment of illegal drinking, dancing, and music were all frequently seen and heard at Gatsby’s parties, and without the energy provided by the jazz band, the mood would not be set. Due to the ever growing fascination of American jazz, the lower class of African Americans finally began to see a future filled with wealth, fame, and respect. However racial tensions between whites and African Americans only continued to grow as the idea of immersing oneself with “black activities” was deemed unspeakable and preposterous.
The surging economy of the Roaring 20’s was a period of economic prosperity, cultural change, and breaking of social norms. Many lived out their lives without restrictions or limitations and went as far as rejecting their own moral standards for the title of “upper class.” Gatsby is a prime example of how society carelessly resided during this era. Gatsby spent his entire life trying to attain his fortune and status as a way to forget the life of rags and poverty that he once called home. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people–his imagination had ever really accepted them as his parents at all… So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end” (Fitzgerald, 98). As his longing for affluence and sophistication grew, Gatsby turned to the corruptness of organized crime and “earned” his riches through the bootlegging of illegal alcohol. His motivation to have Daisy back in his life meant that he would go through any means necessary to be just as socially important as her. However what Gatsby failed to realize is that no matter how hard he tried, the social class of old money would always look down upon those of new money. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness,… and let other people clean up the mess they made…” (Fitzgerald, 179) These people of high social standings used their wealth and position as an excuse to escape from trouble and consequence, proving how greed and superficiality ruled over the society of the 1920s.
With the evolution of the Jazz Age and the Roaring 20s, the young and wealthy showed a new side of rebelliousness that may not have possible without the element of music. Music played a defining role in everybody’s lives as it was known to generate an aura of excitement and wonder. This decade of a new rising culture presented society with the behaviors of confidence and recklessness that was constantly fueled by Gatsby’s many parties. “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).


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