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Materialism And Consumerism In The 1920's

Satisfactory Essays
In the period from 1920 to 1930, commonly referred to as the “Roaring Twenties”, the previously established values in American society underwent significant changes, shifting to materialistic and consumerist ideas. The members of the upper classes lived extravagantly, not realizing many of them were riding on false prosperity. There became a larger split between the upper class and lower class as the rich became richer and the poor became poorer. Money poured into the hands of opportunists who distributed and sold illegal alcohol. A shift in wealth allowed previously poor people to become wealthy. Women began to rebel against the previously established social norms and dressed differently. Racism was widespread during the 1920’s, becoming a reason for support for new legislation against other races. The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s backfired tremendously. Alcohol remained present in a “dry” United States. People met in secret in “speakeasies” controlled by gangsters and drank alcohol. The introduction of the new technologies in communication and transportation such as the radio and the automobile for the common person was a sign of industrialization. The conditions of American society, customs, law, and order began to deteriorate during the period.
Consumerism and materialism in the roaring twenties was evident in the products and shopping habits of the people in the period. People enjoyed buying luxuries to impress others, especially the wealthy. F. Scott Fitzgerald explores this in the book The Great Gatsby. In the novel, a character named Jay Gatsby throws extravagant parties in order to impress. The following quote gives imagery of on such party:
“At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several ...

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...here was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.” The novel heavily relates the aspect of crime and prohibition in the era. In the novel, racketeers allegedly rigged the 1919 Baseball World Series, by bribing the player of the Chicago White Sox to lose a game. It is stated that Jay Gatsby become wealthy due to his involvement with a gangster, Meyer Wolfsheim, where he sold alcohol illegally through drug stores they acquired.
The “Roaring Twenties” was an important era in American history. Major events included prohibition, the rebellion of women, consumerism, crime. These events created an era that would have a large effect on the future of American History. The Great Gatsby ties into this by giving fictional accounts of real events.
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