The Great Gatsby: 1920s Era
The Great Gatsby film involves a story of disenchanted love between a mogul man and married woman. Notwithstanding this storyline, another theme in this film revolves around a less romantic scope. Even though the scenes in the movie are set a few months during the 1922 summer, director Baz Luhrmann does a commendable job in depicting it a circumscribed environment. The Great Gatsby is highly symbolic of the American lifestyle in the 1920s. In particular, it exemplifies the American dream at a time of material excess and unprecedented prosperity (Lathbury 32).
From the topics and themes we have studied in class, I understood that the early 19th century in America was beginning to relish in economic excess from its various trading expeditions with other countries. Additionally, the nation was at the beginning stages of development. This economic success and development compromised the American culture to a certain extent. In the film, Luhrmann portrays the 1920s era as one of putrefied moral and social values as confirmed by its overarching greed, cynicism and the pursuit for pleasure. The reckless jubilance from wild jazz music and decadent parties led to the altered form of the American dream as the desire for pleasure and money surpassed that for noble goals.
Gatsby is the main character in the film, and he epitomizes this aspect clearly. He is an extremely wealthy man who throws opulent parties every Saturday night to show his financial ability. However, as the series of events unfold, the audience understands that Gatsby has amassed his wealth through criminal activities such as bootlegging. When World War I concluded in 1918, the young Americans who participated became disillusioned as the war made the Victorian morality seem hypocritical (Lathbury 47). Studies in class suggest the hostilities resulted to massive rise in national wealth and new materialism. Additionally, a statutory ban of selling alcohol in1919 occurred. This move created a massive underground business opportunity to gratify the immense demand for alcohol among the rich and poor.
Luhrmann gives characters roles that depict these social trends. Gatsby and Nick participated in World War I and now show newfound cynicism and cosmopolitanism consequence of the combat. The various ambitious speculators and social climbers who attend Gatsby’s parties are an epitome of the scramble for wealth. The conflict between ‘new money’ and ‘old money’ comes through the film’s geography. West Egg depicts the self-established rich and East Egg depicts the established aristocracy. Gatsby’s fortune, on the other hand, symbolizes an increase in bootlegging and organized crime that engulfed the early 19th century in America.
As studied in class, the original American dream involved the pursuit of happiness, individualism and discovery. However, the era of the 1920s shown by the film explains how relaxed social values and easy wealth have tarnished this dream, particularly in the East Coast. Gatsby dreams of making Daisy his spouse. However, their differences in their social statuses and Gatsby’s criminal status compromise his dream. In conclusion, a clear analysis of The Great Gatsby reveals that this film is a manifestation of the American society in the early 19th century. This was an era characterized by newfound cynicism and cosmopolitanism in America mainly brought about by the aftermath of World War I (Lathbury 59).
Lathbury, Roger. The Great Gatsby. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2013. Print.