Bank Services the 1920s Term Paper

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Bank Services

The 1920s are known as the decade of opposites. On the one hand, young people enjoyed greater freedom than ever to dress and act as they would like along as they enjoyed the newest and latest inventions, such as the automobile and the many electrical products. On the other hand, a group of religious fundamentalists were doing what they could to stop this radical behavior and retain traditional moral standards. Thus, the passing of the National Prohibition Enforcement Act in 1919 brought these two completely different factions at complete odds. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once said "An author ought to write for the youth of his generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards," followed his advice, and in the Great Gatsby portrayed the incongruities and inconsistencies of this unique historical time.

When the clock struck 12:00 midnight on January 16, 1920, nowhere in America, not even in one's own house, was there a place that could serve even a glass of wine or beer with a meal without breaking the law. The 18th Amendment, known as the Volstead Act, completely banned the production, sale and possession of alcohol in the United States for the next 13 years. Prohibition was supposedly to reduce crime and poverty as well as enhance the quality of American life in America by making it impossible for people to obtain alcohol. However, this so-called "Noble Experiment" is now recognized as a total failure, with people drinking more than ever during this time. In addition, the over-consumption of alcohol led to many more deaths (Bloom 81).

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The main problem was that the law could not change people's behavior in one day. Thus, anyone who drank on January 17th was breaking the law. In addition, many people who never objected to previous legal actions now purposely drank out of spite, hiding illegal liquor in hip flasks, false books, and hollowed-out canes. In speakeasies, they drank bootleg liquor out of tea cups -- in case of a police raid. It comes as no surprise. It is human nature to rebel when someone says not to do something.

Term Paper on Bank Services the 1920s Are Known as Assignment

The changing culture was another reason that prohibition did not succeed. Just six months after prohibition became law in 1920, women received the right to vote. Although suffragettes were the ones who pushed this law into enactment, it was the flappers who were the ones who enjoyed the rewards of this Jazz Age. With short skirts and bobbed hair, as well as smoking cigarettes, drinking cocktails and wearing bright makeup, these women epitomized the freedom and luxury of the 1920s. With their dashing partners, they enjoyed nightclubs and dancing the Black Bottom, Tango, and infamous Charleston, with their dresses climbing upward and bare arms and legs flying.

It was Francis Scott Fitzgerald who captured the true dichotomy of this period -- the hope and despair and the freedom yet restraint -- of the 1920s. Many critics primarily saw him as a chronicler of his time, commenting on the ideas, fads and styles of his times, but never achieving literary power (Literary Companion). They thought his books about the rich and the dreams of success, with beautiful women and wealthy heroes, were nothing more than his jealousy of others. However, now it is recognized that he was indeed a chronicler and much more. He was a true social novelist who captured into fiction these unique times of the Jazz Age, with all its idiosyncrasies. Great Gatsby, in fact, is now seen as one of the most notable 20th century novels. It is a story of a gross, consuming and materialistic world, with the main character Jay Gatsby, ex-Jay Gatz, whose poor past and corrupt economic support is kept secret, and his love for Daisy continues as an impossible goal. He is a man filled with desire, a desire to use money and crime to buy love. Like many people who lived during this time, he was a dreamer. Yet at night, he was haunted by "the most grotesque and fantastic conceits. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor" (Fitzgerald, 1950, 63)

However, the other characters in the book are not much better than Gatsby. Daisy says she loves Gatsby and will wait for him, yet has such a need to be loved that she marries an arrogant philanderer who ironically demands morality from others. Gatsby's Midwestern friend Nick, through whom the story is told, becomes involved with Jordan Baker, a spoiled and self-centered woman of the times.

All these individuals exemplify the prohibition and the reason for its failure. Rather than follow the law, they flagrantly ignore it and believe that it is not for them to follow. Alcohol is so integrated into the characters' lives that prohibition is barely a concern noted in the book. No one is afraid of the police and few have any caution about drinking in the open, even in front of strangers.

The book is also about Fitzgerald, himself. Born in 1896, and named after his ancestor Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner," Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. Although never graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as second lieutenant, and was stationed at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery, Alabama. Here he met and fell in love with the wild 17-year-old Zelda Sayre. She finally agreed to marry him, yet her strong desire for wealth, fame, and fun led her to delay their wedding until Fitzgerald could prove his success. With the publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920, he became a literary sensation, earning enough money and fame to convince Zelda to marry him. He, too, was victimized by the times. As he became more celebrated as an author, Fitzgerald began living a wild, irresponsible life complete with parties and depravity, all the time attempting to continue to please Zelda through his writing success. Fitzgerald's life thus mirrors that of Gatsby, who becomes very wealthy at a young age, wasting money for needless possessions in hopes he would make Daisy share his love. Similarly, as the illusionary fun and frolicking of the Roaring Twenties come to an end with the dismal times of the Great Depression, Zelda suffers a nervous breakdown and Fitzgerald battles alcoholism and dies at the young age of 44 (Kenner).

The lives of those in Great Gatsby end just as dismally. Nick, Jordan, and Tom believe that Gatsby has hit and killed Myrtle, Tom's lover. When returning to Long Island, Gatsby tells Nick that it was Daisy who was driving the car, but that he will take the blame. Tom tells Myrtle's husband, George, that Gatsby was the driver of the car. George, who wrongly believes that is Gatsby not Tom that is Myrtle's lover, shoots Gatsby in the pool and then fatally shoots himself.

Nick moves back to the Midwest, trying to rid himself of the disdain he feels for these false and formless individuals who have been a part of Gatsby's life and the debase life-style of the rich on the East Coast. Nick realizes that no one's dream -- not even his-- has resulted as wished, and the frivolous life that everyone thought was so special developed into nothing. At the novel's end, when Nick recalls America as "The New World," he is also talking about people like himself who have dreams of moving from the Midwest to the East to pursue their own dreams. Like Gatsby, there is this belief that one can recreate oneself and become something that one has never been before (Weisbrod, 104).

For some time, Fitzgerald believed that the Great Gatsby was a flawed masterpiece and often his spoke about its literary problems. However, with time, as the novel grew in importance and fame, he became more proud of his results. He captured a group of individuals who at the time were such an integral part of New York and Eastern life, yet had not previously been acknowledged. That is why the Great Gatsby is as much a work of social history as it is a work of fiction. The critics were fortunately right. He did act as a type of chronicler and write down what he saw for posterity. His book became both a special work of fiction and of social importance.

At the same time, the book is a social commentary on the prohibition and why that, too, did not succeed. Fitzgerald lived in and portrayed one of the most chaotic times in U.S. history. It was a time as Fitzgerald himself stated, "there were very few people left at the sober table" (Fitzgerald, 1988, 14). He also noted it was "an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire" (ibid, 10). He and the Great Gatsby characters lived during… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Bank Services the 1920s" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Bank Services the 1920s.  (2007, December 11).  Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Bank Services the 1920s."  11 December 2007.  Web.  28 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Bank Services the 1920s."  December 11, 2007.  Accessed September 28, 2020.