By Alanna Warwick-Smith
The countdown is on. As the clock ticks steadily towards a new year and a new decade, along with it comes the realisation that we are re-entering the ’20s.
What will our children say about the 2020s? Will this decade be another roaring good era of success and peace? Will there be inventions and medical cures? What great literary works will be born in the next 10 years?
The 1920s were filled with economic prosperity and an active and diverse cultural landscape, spawning the “Lost Generation” of writers such as T.S Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, John Steinbeck, Langston Hughes and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“The Great Gatsby,” a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 and ultimately shaped by the decade, is in some ways a love letter to the American Dream.
Piggybacking off the events of World War I, the novel conveys the debauchery and excitement of the Prohibition Era: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . .”
This is done honestly by highlighting the period’s glamour, in Gatsby’s extravagant parties, and its desperation, like Myrtle Wilson’s social climbing to combat the class divide.
Class is a recurring motif in the novel with a standout being the separation between new money in West Egg and old money in the neighbouring East Egg. This contrast sets the landscape for the love, or lack thereof, story between Gatsby and Daisy. Seemingly insignificant, the novel proves that how one has acquired wealth results in a separate set of values and view of the world.
The differences in the social understanding between the classes is seen in this passage: “Gatsby lacks the maturity to realize that Daisy cannot be obtained by money alone and in a vulgar display of conspicuous consumption, he flaunts his nouveau wealth.”
Gatsby held the American Dream in his hands, exorbitant wealth regardless of the circumstances of his birth, yet he still was unable to realise his ultimate dream, the love of Daisy.
As we enter an economically prosperous, connected and technology-filled version of another decade of ’20s a century later, this great American novel — available at Books & Books — shows us how literature can be shaped by the times.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Book Talk: The Great Gatsby and the roaring Twenties.”
About the author
Alanna Warwick-Smith is a Marketing Coordinator supporting the real estate marketing team for Dart. Alanna has worked in Dart’s flagship development of Camana Bay for the past seven years, when she began her career working at the town’s bookstore, Books & Books. A lover of the written word, Alanna reads and writes poetry in her spare time, and has written content for a range of platforms in the past, including her own blog and Camana Bay Times.