The Great Gatsby Context


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The Great Gatsby Context

  1. 1. The Great Gatsby: Context
  2. 2. Aims & Objectives • Discuss first reactions to the novel. • Explore the contexts of Prohibition & alcohol, cars and money.
  3. 3. Talk about: • What you know about the Prohibition Era. • What a bootlegger was. • Why they might have been nicknamed bootleggers.
  4. 4. Prohibition • 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 • The law was repealed in 1933.
  5. 5. Prohibition & The Great Gatsby • Alcohol definitely clouds the difference between clarity and reality. • 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 possible. • Alcohol helps Jay Gatsby achieve his American Dream because he gets rich quick.
  6. 6. Cars & Materialism
  7. 7. Talk about: • What you know about the first cars manufactured. • What cars might represent or be symbolic of in The Great Gatsby.
  8. 8. Cars • 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.
  9. 9. $$ Boom $$ • 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 boomed. • In addition new industries grew such as advertising and sales. • People needed to be persuaded that they needed to buy into this new lifestyle. • 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.
  10. 10. $$ Bust $$ • Between 1922 and 1929 corporate profits rose by 76% and wages by 33%. There were also more than 600 bank failures a year. • 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.