Aims & Objectives
• Discuss first reactions to the novel.
• Explore the contexts of Prohibition & alcohol, cars and money.
• What you know about the Prohibition Era.
• What a bootlegger was.
• Why they might have been nicknamed
• In January 1920 America outlawed the manufacture,
transportation and sale of intoxicating liquor (alcohol).
• Protestants believed they were saving society
• Predictably sale and consumption of alcohol increased and
several man (including Al Capone) made millions of dollars.
• Prohibition was the beginning of a gangster culture as many
violent acts were committed (as they are today as part of the
drugs trade) as a result of prohibition.
• Fitzgerald hints at some of these real life violent incidents in
his portrayal of Jay Gatsby.
• By 1925 there were approximately 100,000 ‘speakeasies’ (bars
selling illegal liquor) in New York City alone.
• The law was repealed in 1933.
Prohibition & The Great Gatsby
• Alcohol definitely clouds the difference between clarity and
• Nick is drunk in several place and comments that alcohol
changed everything (chapter 3).
• Nick also comments on the negative effect that alcohol has on
people (chapter 3).
• It is only when Gatsby gets involved with alcohol and becomes
a bootlegger that his perceptions of reality get clouded. The
money he makes leads him to think a life with Daisy might be
• Alcohol helps Jay Gatsby achieve his American Dream because
he gets rich quick.
• What you know about the first cars
• What cars might represent or be symbolic
of in The Great Gatsby.
• In 1895 only 4 trucks and passenger cars had been made. By 1919
the figure was 7,565,446.
• Henry Ford’s Model T car was developed in 1908. it was cheap and
the majority of Americans could afford to buy one.
• Ford paid Americans $5 per hour to work on the Model T production
line in 1914, double the normal wage. Ford’s production line was
The American Dream in action.
• Cars = wealth = importance: cars are a sign of the novel’s
preoccupation with wealth, money and materialism.
• Cars = extravagance = carelessness: the car is Gatsby’s symbol of
wealth but ultimately it leads to his downfall.
• The failing Dream: Wilson’s car garage represents the other side of
The Dream, it’s failure.
• The accident at the party (chapter 3) shows how careless the rich
are and how easily replaced things are, it also foreshadows the
accident in chapter 7.
$$ Boom $$
• In 1912 America’s total wealth was estimated at $187 million, in
1929 it was $450 million.
• The economic boom was fuelled by new industries making cars,
refrigerators, telephones, radio, vacuum cleaners, food processors
and many other gadgets we now take for granted.
• Iron, steel, glass, rubber and roads were needed so the industries
• In addition new industries grew such as advertising and sales.
• People needed to be persuaded that they needed to buy into this
• Most people could not afford to buy products outright so a new
system of financial credit was established meaning people could,
quite literally, have everything.
• The car is a potent symbol of the 1920s as it provided freedom to
everyone, especially young women.
$$ Bust $$
• Between 1922 and 1929 corporate profits rose by 76% and
wages by 33%. There were also more than 600 bank failures a
• Businesses put their profits into investments (via bond
salesmen) thus refinancing more companies. There was no
regulation and no way of knowing if the bond salesman was
honest or not.
• The Wall Street Crash in 1929 signalled the end of the Roaring
Twenties as the stock (bond) market collapsed.