Friday, December 9, 2011

'The Great Gatsby' in today's America

Fitzgerald writes about the times of The Jazz Age, an age of excess and indulgence. After WW1, America began to feel differently about how they should (and could) act. The 1920s brought with it a gaudiness that the upper middles class were more than willing to flaunt. The distribution of wealth at the time was staggering, with a rise in income for America as a whole at 9%, whereas the top 1% of the population saw a rise of 75%. This time also saw the birth of a new consumer economy, meaning that Americans had more money from higher wages, and more time to spend it due to the creation of weekends.

Also with this financial liberation came the liberation of women when they were awarded the vote in 1920. Women now had more choice, not only in the political arena, but in fashion as well. Flapper Girls were all the rage, with their short skirts and suggestive dancing, and smoking was now seen as an acceptable past time for women.

Technology was also advancing at an unprecedented rate when the first solo flight across the atlantic was completed by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Overall, it's fair to suggest that the 20s represented an era of great change that produced excitement amongst the American citizens. The boom had brought a false sense of security, and the Wall Street crash in 1929 came as a startling wake up call for those under the spell of the American Dream.

Because of this, I believe that The Great Gatsby is still relevant today, even more so than ever before due to the state of the American economy. Another boom was experienced in recent years, and victory in the Gulf War could have attributed to the disillusionment of the American population, but now they are experiencing the bust. It is possible, therefore, for Americans to look at The Great Gatsby in hindsight and perhaps it is easier to do so now because it is set in a different era. Because of this, it's easier for people to take an outsider's view, and to see similarities that are easier to accept as it has already happened.
If there is a so-called American dream, it is in this constant turning over, in the belief that we can outrun time (and the ultimate destruction of death, as evidenced by our love of young celebrity) by forever attaching ourselves to the new. This is what Nick realizes in the book's mockingly bitter conclusion: "the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther."
Alexander Nazaryan, Daily News Staff Writer, (March 2011).
The thoughts and feelings of Fitzgerald are now reminiscent of those in America who have been let down by the American Dream. 9/11 woke America up, and now they are willing to listen to their previous mistakes, even though they may seem bittersweet.

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