Great Gatsby Essay

1 January 2017

The Biographical and Historical Approach to The Great Gatsby Throughout the book, Fitzgerald shows a lot of aspects of the 1920’s including prohibition and the illegal selling and moving of alcohol. Prohibition was a big part of the 20’s and the crime it produced because of the alcohol that was not to be had. Prohibition started in the U. S. with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment. This prohibited the sale, use, possession, and manufacturing of alcohol any where in the U. S..

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Then on January 17, 1920 congress passed the Volstead Act which enforced the Amendment. Some people said that the passage of the Amendment was due to the fact of the absence of young men that were in the war. The law represented the gathering of decades of activism by temperance advocates. They said that alcoholism hurt worker productivity, domestic violence, family disruption, and was responsible for health problems(“1920’s Prohibition”). Instead of eliminating alcohol from America it stimulated an economy that provided illegal “hooch”,”bathtub gin”, and “moonshine” to customers.

Approximately 5,000 people died from drinking poisonous home made alcohol. To avoid poisoning from alcohol they sought to buy good “hooch” and delivered it from overseas mainly over Canadian borders and alcohol became Detroit’s second leading industry behind auto manufacturing. Millions of Americans broke the Volstead act and also went to speakeasies which were secretive bars. In big cities gangsters tried to control the alcohol market by committing fierce and violent crimes to control there turf which was called “turf wars”(“1920’s Prohibition”).

Gavia 2 By 1929 it was apparent that enforcement of prohibition was not working. President Hoover, in response to public demand appointed a commission to study the problems of law enforcement. Hoover designated former attorney General George  Wickersham as head of the national commission on Law observance and enforcement a. k. a. Wickersham Commission. People criticized the report saying it was a waste of taxpayers’ money because they arrived at no new solutions to prohibition problems(“1920’s Prohibition”).

The public was so mad by the government’s failure to enforce the Volstead Act that by 1932 both political parties in their platforms put in the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. So the Twenty-First Amendment which was ratified in less than one year. Which by 1933 national prohibition ended(“1920’s Prohibition”). High standards, resistance, and bad enforcement of the Volstead Act plagued Prohibition from the beginning. Hoping to make a better definition of Prohibition legislatures in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts passed some laws in 1920 that allowed the sale of light wine and low alcohol beer.

The Supreme Court denied the challenges to the Volstead Act in the exact same year. Even though the doctrine allowed states to create stringent standards this did not mean they could make looser regulations(Blocker,Fahey,Tyrell). All but one state which was Maryland passed a state-level compaction to the Volstead Act creating enforcement mechanisms. Very little states invested funds to sustain an effective enforcement group, and twenty-eight states did not even invest any money. A handful of states repealed their enforcement acts and local police worked very hard to contain the illegal alcohol trafficking.

In bigger cities there were webs of underground clubs called speakeasies that were Gavia 3 like bars. After the St. Valentines day massacre in Chicago the Governor of New York renewed calls for the changing of the Volstead Act(Blocker,Fahey,Tyrell). From the beginning prohibition enforcement would prove to be to weak to hold up prohibition. The prohibition unit, federal agency empowered to enforce national prohibition underwent three reorganizations and personnel changes. It produced seven years of chaos. Until 1927 the Prohibition bureau was not under civil service, because of this it was susceptible to political interference.

One out twelve agents were was fired for illegal acts. Even though the Coast Guard and the customs services aided the Prohibition Bureau to stop smuggling it could not carry out the task of prohibition enforcement(Blocker,Fahey,Tyrell). Wayne Wheeler general counsel of ASLA tried for IRS stewardship for Prohibition. Also he wanted the exemption of civil service or the agents. Dry leaders were reluctant to criticize enforcement. Congress was content on where they stand on prohibition issue. They made minimal appropriations for additional enforcement(Blocker,Fahey,Tyrell).

The Democratic Party platform included an anti prohibition act when Roosevelt ran for president he promised that he would repeal prohibition. The vote for repeal was 74 percent those for prohibition was 26 percent. Happy throngs sang “happy days are here again(David Hanson). Prohibition had been repealed by the 21st amendment which only had two sentences but were the most important sentences. They read: The eighteenth article to the constitution of the U. S. is hereby repealed.

The other read: the transportation into any state, territory, or possession of the U.S. for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is Gavia 4 hereby prohibited. Section 1 made it legal to have and sell alcohol and section two made the states delegate the law of liquor. Not all states repealed automatically it took the last state to repeal it until 1966 to do so(David Hanson). Prohibition and repeal were still against each other for awhile and it even split up families and friends. Today there are still hundreds of dry counties across the country seven decades after national repeal.

Even though prohibition failed and caused big problems a lot of people still support neo-prohibition and defend the vestiges of prohibition that still seem to exist(David Hanson). Fitzgerald touched on night life and bootlegging of the time. The government shut down bars and drinking spots. So the gangs took over and opened up places called speakeasies. If you were caught with alcohol you were arrested(Prohibition and The Great Gatsby). This did not stop people from drinking they just went to speakeasies. Many of the people that drank were mostly wealthy people.

The Great Gatsby has its share of drinking throughout the book because the characters are always drinking(Prohibition and The Great Gatsby). Through the course of the book you hear of drinking, adultery, vehicular manslaughter, and constant partying. Four stills, two in Detroit and two in Indiana were raided. Many of the federal agents that were not paid well were themselves bootleggers. Wayne wheeler of the anti saloon league said he needed less than $5 million which was not true they actually needed $28 million which was unheard of in the 1920’s(Prohibition and The Great Gatsby).

Fitzgerald enrolled at Princeton in 1913. There he dedicated his life to the literary life. Gavia 5 He wrote Princeton’s musicals and some pieces for there magazine. In 1917 he dropped out of Princeton and joined the army(Sara,Tom Pendergast). In Alabama he met a daughter of a supreme court judge named Zelda Sayre. He pursued her with great vigor. Her family did not like him much at all they thought he was not suited for her. In 1919 he left for New York  to make a fortune  in order to be able to marry her(Sara,Tom Pendergast). Fitzgerald succeeded and returned to st Paul to finish his first novel.

A week after it was published he married Zelda in New York and so they began their life together as young celebs. In April of 1925 he published The Great Gatsby. Through the recollections of Nick Carraway he puts his memories in the book from the characters to the memories them self. His book was also about the American family idealism(Sara,Tom Pendergast). As you can see that Prohibition was a major role in the twenties it was probably the biggest dilemma at the time. Fitzgerald shows all this along the way til the very end(Sara,Tom Pendergast).

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