Flappers, silent films and the Jazz Age typically characterize the American era post World War I but prior to the Great Depression. American author F. Scott Fitzgerald was a celebrity of that era in the 1920s, having several successful stories in The Saturday Evening Post as well as the novel This Side of Paradise. However, it is Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby that depicts the country's descent into cultural revolution/change and the exuberant era known as the Jazz Age.
The horrors of World War I were over and a new era had begun. Film stars influenced the younger generation, and gangsters ruled major cities like Chicago and New York. Prohibition was in full swing. According to Digital History (University of Houston), "In 1927, there were an estimated 30,000 illegal speakeasies -- twice the number of legal bars before Prohibition." The 1920s saw a modern, urban culture at odds with its rural conservative counterpart. The flappers danced the Charleston to music that was loud, brash and very different from the melodies before World War I. The Jazz Age of the 1920s was more than music, though, and illegal alcohol. It was a time of social changes. F. Scott Fitzgerald not only wrote about the era, he lived it.
The Great Gatsby and the Jazz Age
F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby in 1925. Fitzgerald brings to life his view of the Jazz Age through the book. His title character, Gatsby, is a World War I veteran. His war experience affects his behavior as well as how he sees the world and the society in which he now lives. Through the book the reader gets to experience the lifestyles of a societal group that defined the Jazz Age; they had newly acquired wealth, casual morals and a love of all that was modern.
Living the Jazz Age
Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre in 1920. She was the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. Zelda had a wild, reckless nature, and the couple embraced the looser lifestyle of the Jazz Age and Roaring '20s. They rarely stayed in one location for long, enjoying the company of theatrical performers and other young celebrities, such as the film actress Lillian Gish. The Fitzgeralds traveled overseas, indulged in parties, alcohol and spent money as fast as they could make it. They embraced the era known as the Jazz Age and have become two of the most recognizable celebrities of the 1920s.