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Essay on Roaring Twenties- The Great Depression
The roaring twenties refers to 1920’s in the United States which was a period characterized by distinctive cultural edge in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles as well as other major cities in the world during a period of sustained economic prosperity. The roaring twenties can be said to be a decade of economic growth, and widespread prosperity that was driven by the recovery from wartime devastation and there was a boom in the consumer economy. The economies of the different countries were able to successful transition from a wartime economy to a peacetime one. This paper is going to examine how the roaring 20’s affected depression and how it shown in the Great Gatsby.
The setting of the Great Gatsby novel is in the Roaring Twenties; therefore, the subject of the First World War is unavoidable (Fitzgerald 85). This war was critical to the development of Gatsby, and provided a succinct period of societal mobility, which Scott Fitzgerald asserts, rapidly closed after the World war. The only reason that Gatsby met Daisy, a young, classy debutante is because, in the war, he was a soldier. Additionally, no single person could prove that he did not belong to the upper echelons (Fitzgerald 90).
This war gave him with more opportunities to view the world, and make money while serving a millionaire (Fitzgerald 92). However, the opportunities of Gatsby ended after World War, when he discovered that upon his return to America that the American social structure was as rigid as that of Europe. Gatsby is unable to fit into East egg society as he is not able to prove to anyone that he is from the upper-class (Fitzgerald 105).
On the exterior, The Great Gatsby portrays the disenchanted love that exists between a woman and a man. Nevertheless, the central theme of the novel covers a much extensive, less romantic scope. Although all of the novel’s action occur during a number of months in the 1922 summer, and is set in a confined area in the vicinity of New York, Long Island, The Great Gatsby is a decidedly symbolic reflection on the whole America, in the 1920's particularly the crumbling of the dream of Americans in an era of unmatched material excess and prosperity (Lockridge 20). This era is often described as one of the most successful eras where persons in the United States were truly happy, and the financial prosperity could be seen in their faces.
Today, over seventy years after the publication of The Great Gatsby, it appears as pertinent and fresh to American life as it did back in the 1920s. According to Maurer, the historical, cultural, and social setting of the 1920s embodied in its pages does not seem dissimilar from our own (Maurer 50). This story’s setting is in the start of 1920s, after the end of World War I, during a prescription, a period that forbids the sale, consumption or manufacture of alcoholic beverages. The period is noteworthy since the illegally acquired wealth of Gatsby appears to be from bootlegging; also alcohol is noticeably available, despite being prohibited, throughout the novel. This essay aims at showing ways that the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald aims at reflecting the 1920s’ culture. Moreover, it also aims at identifying the symbols and the themes used in the novel and the nature of Gatsby’s tragedy.
In the 1920s, the impact of Jazz Music was massive. It was the start of the collapse of strict barriers, and it created a considerable influence on culture and social setting, and it reflected how the roles of women were starting to change. According to Fitzgerald, although the prominence of jazz music continued, the youth became less and less interested in Jazz (Fitzgerald 40). Time is a fundamental notion in the novel; for instance, Jazz itself is associated with time. Fitzgerald intentionally developed this story during the Jazz era. It was an authentic and authoritative voice of the historic era, and the contemporary art form to articulate it.
Fitzgerald depicts the 1920s as an era of decayed moral and social values, supported by its overarching greed, cynicism and empty quest for pleasure. The irresponsible jubilance that led to wild jazz music and debauched parties —exemplified in “The Great Gatsby” by the luxurious parties that Gatsby throws each Saturday night. Ultimately, this led to the American dream being corrupted, as the unreserved desire for pleasure and money exceeded more decent goals (Gross 65).
After the end of World War, the young American generation that took part in the war became extremely disillusioned, since the atrocious bloodshed that they had just encountered made the early 20th Century’s Victorian societal morality appear like empty, stuffy hypocrisy. According to Wyly, the unprecedented rise of the stock market after the war resulted in an abrupt, constant rise, in the wealth of the nation and the new materialism as individuals began to consume and spend at unmatched levels (Wyly 90).
An individual from any social or cultural background could, possibly, have a lot of wealth, but the aristocracy of America, which consists of families with old wealth, ridiculed the newly rich speculators and industrialists and speculators (92). Furthermore, in 1919, the passage of the 18th Amendment, which outlawed the selling and consumption of alcoholic beverages, created a flourishing underworld intended to satisfy the colossal demand for bootleg alcohol among the poor and rich alike (9 Wyly 7). This is clearly shown in the Great Gatsby, and it contributes to his immense wealth.
Fitzgerald presents the Great Gatsby’s characters as symbols of these social trends. Gatsby and Nick, both fought in World War I, and display the new-found cynicism and cosmopolitanism that resulted from the World war. The diverse, ambitious speculators and social climbers who attend the parties of Gatsby demonstrate the rush for prosperity. The conflict between new and old money is evident in the symbolic geography of the novel. The East Egg symbolizes the renowned aristocracy while the West Egg represents the nouveau rich. Gatsby and Meyer Wolfshiem’s fortune represents the rise of bootlegging and organized crime (Maurer 50).
According to Fitzgerald, initially the American dream was about a quest for happiness, individualism, and discovery (Fitzgerald 20). However, as demonstrated in this novel, relaxed social morals, and easy money have tainted this dream, particularly in the East. The central focus of this novel echo this evaluation, as the dream of Gatsby of loving Daisy is destroyed due to their social statuses’ difference. Gatsby resorts to criminal activities so as to impress Daisy by making enough money, and the uncontrolled materialism that illustrates her lifestyle (Dowling 70).
Gatsby fills Daisy with an idealized flawlessness that she neither possesses nor deserves, just as the people in America give meaning to America through dreams about their lives.
The dream of Gatsby is destroyed by the lack of the worthiness of its object, just as the dream of Americans in the 1920s is destroyed by the lack of the worthiness of its object, pleasure and money. Just like the 1920s, where American unsuccessfully looked for a bygone era that embodied their values and dreams, Gatsby wishes to reconstruct a past already gone, his time with Daisy in Louisville, but is not capable of achieving this dream. After his dream fall apart, Gatsby eventually dies, and Nick makes the decision to go back to Minnesota, a place where the values of the Americans have not yet decayed (Weisbrod 45).
In conclusion, the roaring 20’s was, therefore, a preparation for the great depression. The economic prosperity was mainly provided by increased consumer spending and this growth fed the supply side of the economic policy. The Dow Jones Industrial stock index was at an all time high, and it continued to move upwards for weeks and months. It is of the essence to recognize that this led to an increase in speculative activities, and this can be shown through the behaviors of Gatsby. People were over-confident in the economy and gave an illusion of the bull market of 1928-1929. Most economic analysts threw caution to the wind and thought that the economic prosperity would last forever. However, on October 29 in the year 1929, the stock prices on Wall street collapsed and this day is often regarded to as Black Tuesday. The events in the United States put millions of people out of work across the United States.
Dowling, David. The Great Gatsby in the Classroom: Searching for the American Dream. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. Print.
Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. The Great Gatsby. Harmondsworth (Royaume Uni): Penguin Books, 1950. Print.
Gross, Dalton, and MaryJean Gross. Understanding "The great Gatsby": A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print.
Lockridge, Ernest. Twentieth Century interpretations of The great Gatsby: A collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Print.
Maurer, Kate. Fitzgerald's The great Gatsby. New York, NY: Wiley Pub., 2000. Print.
Weisbrod, Eva. A student's Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2004. Print.
White, Patti. Gatsby's Party: The System and the List in Contemporary Narrative. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1992. Print.
Wyly, Michael J. Understanding The Great Gatsby. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2002. Print.