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Fitzgerald’s Accuracy In His Portrayal Of The Twenties

1254 words - 6 pages

F. Scott Fitzgerald was accurate in his portrayal of the aristocratic flamboyancy and indifference of the 1920s. In his novel, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald explores many aspects of indifference and flamboyancy. A large influence on this society was the pursuit of the American Dream. Gangsters played a heavily influential role in the new money aristocracy of the 1920s. The indifference was mainly due to the advent of Prohibition in 1920. One major societal revolution in this period was that of the “new women,” who expressed new actions and beliefs. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald accurately portrayed his characters Nick Carraway, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, and the novel’s eponym, Jay Gatsby, as ...view middle of the document...

In The Great Gatsby, Tom refers to a book he has recently read, Goddard’s The Rise of Coloured Empires (Fitzgerald 17). This is a mangled allusion to the actual novel The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, by Theodore Lothrop Stoddard (Maurer 24). One last characteristic of the youthful American Dream of the 1920s was the defiance of Prohibition.
In The Great Gatsby, the main characters have absolutely no problems defying the eighteenth amendment prohibiting the sale of liquor. The Buchanans and their guests drink often, and with no regard for the illegality of that act (Fitzgerald 15). After 16 January 1920, when Prohibition officially went into effect (Cayton 699), the sale of “medicinal” alcohol rose, and bootlegging and moonshining operations sprang up across the nation (Behr 84-85). In The Great Gatsby, it is rumored that Gatsby made his money through bootlegging and the sale of “medicinal” alcohol (Fitzgerald 65). Bootlegging operations were thought to be a one billion dollar business by August of 1921. Another manner in which the young aristocrats of the 1920s was to attend “speakeasies,” secret meeting places scattered throughout cities where the gin was cool and the piano was hot. It has been estimated that there were approximately 700 speakeasies in Washington, D.C., and 4,000 speakeasies in Boston (Cayton 700). Most bootleggers and moonshiners escaped prosecution through the paid corruption of local and other levels of government (Behr 88). The Great Gatsby mirrored the corrupt defiance of the eighteenth amendment so closely that Jay Gatsby has often been thought to have been based on Chicago bootlegger and organized crime fixture George Remus. Gatsby mirrored Remus so closely that even Gatsby’s parties were grand on the same scale as George Remus’s parties, and that Gatsby was rumored to have made his money in organized crime and bootlegging, as Remus did.
Prohibition catapulted most notable gangsters to their fame. The gangsters began their racket as a competition to see who could provide the most illegal alcohol, but the criminals discovered that, by working together, they could rake in even more money (Cayton 701). Gangsters and other fixtures of organized crime often financed the widespread defiance of Prohibition. In Chicago, Al Capone controlled more than 10,000 speakeasies and bootlegging operations (Allen 229). Meyer Wolfsheim, a pivotal character in The Great Gatsby, was modeled after Arnold Rothstein (Fitzgerald 211), a major organized crime figure of New York. Rothstein was such an influential figure that he was rumored to have organized the fix of the 1919 World Series, as is implied of Wolfsheim (78), though nothing was proven...

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