How Does the Great Gatsby Relate to American History?

The Great Gatsby is a classic American novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925. The novel has become an iconic representation of the roaring twenties, a decade of great social and cultural change in America.

It explores the themes of wealth, love, and the pursuit of the American Dream. But how does The Great Gatsby relate to American history? Let’s take a closer look.

The Roaring Twenties

The Great Gatsby is set in the 1920s, a time also known as the “Roaring Twenties.” This was a decade of great prosperity and change in America.

After World War I, the country experienced an economic boom, resulting in increased wealth for many Americans. This newfound wealth led to a shift in social behavior, with people indulging more in parties, alcohol, and other pleasures.

Social Stratification

The novel explores the theme of social stratification – the division of society into different classes based on wealth and status. The character of Jay Gatsby represents the “new money” class – those who became wealthy through their own efforts rather than through inheritance. He is contrasted with characters such as Tom Buchanan who represents “old money” – those who inherited their wealth and status.

The American Dream

The Great Gatsby also explores the concept of the American Dream – that anyone can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. However, it also highlights how this dream can be corrupted by materialism and greed.

Prohibition Era

Another important historical context for The Great Gatsby is Prohibition – a nationwide ban on alcohol that lasted from 1920 to 1933. Despite its illegality, alcohol consumption continued to be popular during this time period. In The Great Gatsby, alcohol is frequently consumed at parties hosted by various characters.

The Black Market

The novel also touches on the black market that emerged during Prohibition. Characters such as Jay Gatsby and Meyer Wolfsheim are involved in illegal activities such as bootlegging and gambling.

The Decline of the American Dream

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the American Dream is not attainable for all characters. The character of George Wilson represents the working-class who strive to achieve success but ultimately fail. The tragic ending of the novel highlights how the American Dream can be elusive and unattainable for many.

The Stock Market Crash

The Great Gatsby also foreshadows the stock market crash of 1929 – an event that marked the end of the Roaring Twenties and resulted in widespread economic hardship. This event symbolizes the decline of the American Dream and highlights how fleeting prosperity can be.

In conclusion, The Great Gatsby is a powerful representation of American history during a time of great change and social upheaval. It explores themes such as wealth, social stratification, and the pursuit of the American Dream while providing a glimpse into Prohibition-era America. By incorporating historical context into his story, Fitzgerald has created a timeless classic that continues to capture readers’ imaginations today.