Similarly, the Great Gatsby is also about the negative side of the prohibition, the gangsters and crime and how American morality was scarred by unethical behavior, a desire for success and wealth, yet, at the same time, ultraconservatism in social and political thinking. There was no way, in fact, that the prohibition could be any more successful than the lives of those who ignored and laughed at it. For the prohibition also consisted of hypocrisy, because even many of those who supported the law, either drank themselves, made money from it, or knew that it would never last for long.
President Hoover called the prohibition Amendment “a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive” (Time Life, 110). Noble though it may have seemed, seldom before had ever a law been so flagrantly violated. Not only did the United States continue to manufacture, barter and possess alcohol, but Americans drank more of it than before. Women, to whom the taverns had been off limits in prior years, now went to the speakeasy and consumed huge quantities of drinks. Moonshining, previously only in the hills of countryside, became a big business, as did smuggling up and down the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida. Many police officers teamed with both the criminals and the drinkers. In New York, the state where Great Gatsby took place, Congressman Fiorello H. La Guardia stated that it would take a police force of 250,000 to enforce prohibition in Manhattan. In Washington, DC, the Prohibition Bureau had the highest turnover of officers of any government agency — about 10,000 men held 3,000 jobs in six years. In fact, someone once said that the Bureau was running “a training school for bootleggers” (Time Life, 110).
Thus, Great Gatsby indeed is about the decadence of the times of the Jazz Age, and how the dreams of the wealthy were not that sweet after all. It is also a book that is indicative of the misaligned dreams of the prohibition; this law is not only a laughing matter by the wealthy leaders of the community, but another way for them to make money off the poor. Finally, the book Great Gatsby is also about Fitzgeralds own broken dreams of a life with his Daisy, Zelda, and of his desired success as an author.
Zelda was plagued as a schizophrenic for most of her life and died in a mental hospital. Fitzgerald died of alcohol-related problems at a young age.
In one of his last interviews, a New York Post reporter asked Fitzgerald how he felt about the jazz-mad, gin-mad generation he chronicled in his books, such as Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise.
Why should I bother myself about them? he asked. Havent I enough worries of my own? You know as well as I do what has happened to them. Some became brokers and threw themselves out of windows. Others became bankers and shot themselves. Still others became newspaper reporters. And a few became successful authors. His face twitched. Successful authors! he cried. Oh, my God, successful authors! He then stumbled over to the highboy and poured himself another drink.
Bloom, Harold. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby New York: Penguin, 1950.
____ the Crack Up. New York: Penguin, 1988.
Kenner, the Promised Land. The Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 7.2 (1974), 14-33.
Literary Companion to American Authors. F. Scott Fitzgerald. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998
Mok, Michel. “The Other Side of Paradise: Scott Fitzgerald, 40, Engulfed in.