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The Great Gatsby, The 1920s, And A Drifting Era

1391 words - 6 pages

The Great Gatsby, The 1920s, and a Drifting Era

The decade of the 1920s was a transitional, restless era. Moral values were
changed dramatically after the first World War, creating a time in which people were
adrift, wandering through life, and wondering what was in their future. This restlessness
and drifting feeling that many people experienced throughout the 1920s is skillfully
captured by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1920s novel, The Great Gatsby. Through his
description of landscapes in this novel, Fitzgerald incorporates a floating, unsettled tone,
which was the tone of the 1920s. In order to add emphasis to the theme of drifting,
Fitzgerald tells his story through the ...view middle of the document...

..their dresses were fluttering as if they had just been blown back from a
short flight” (12). There is a sensation that nothing is stable; everything is restless. This
very much describes the life that Daisy, Tom and Jordan lead - on the edge, doing
whatever pleases them. This description is a foreshadow, predicting the carelessness and
instability of the characters’ lives, and the consequences of their attitudes. At the end of
the book, when Daisy hits Myrtle Wilson while driving Gatsby’s car, she and Tom are able
to carelessly run off. They are able to forget about the incident that just occurred, forget
about how it ruined others’ lives. Their careless attitudes and great wealth keep them
stable no matter what they do, so they can run off and leave their mistakes, however
grave, behind. The description of Jordan also summarizes her attitude towards life -
careless and restless. There are rumors of her cheating in golf matches, and “[leaving] a
borrowed car out in the rain with the top down and then [lying] about it” (62). Just as
Daisy and Tom, she has careless tendencies, and is able to get away with them by just
roaming on through life, leaving them behind. Jordan’s wealth supports her wrongdoing
as well. The reference to “anchored” balloons also is symbolic of Daisy and Jordan’s
lives. They are described as balloons, which symbolizes their drifting, uncaring attitudes
towards life, but they are anchored down at the same time. Being anchored down means
that they do have some stability in their lives. Their money is the common possession that
both these women have that adds stability to their lives. Daisy’s wealth allows her to still
live well, despite her carelessness. She also has stability in her marriage and family.
Jordan also has wealth because she is a professional golfer. Security in her job, fame and
money allow her to run away from her problems. The description of Tom and Daisy’s
house and the people occupying it symbolizes the life that many of the characters live, and
simultaneously shows that the carelessness and drifting played a part in many people’s
lives in the 1920s.
Many landscape descriptions make known the drifting tendencies of Nick, the
narrator. Although actual descriptions of him are absent because he is telling the story, his
feelings, actions and surroundings are shown. An exemplary description showing that
Nick is a drifter is the train station scene. After Nick gets drunk and passes out, he wakes
up to find himself in the train station. In this scene, many random thoughts enter Nick’s
head. There is a disoriented tone, as many thoughts with no apparent connection enter
Nick’s head. “Beauty and the Beast... Loneliness...Old Grocery Store... Brook’n Bridge”
(42). Although Nick was previously drunk, his mind straying from one aimless thought to
another shows he is unsettled. Nick loses consciousness because of his drunkenness, and
he wakes up to find...

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