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‘Reckless Year’ F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The 1920’s have been referred to as a ‘Reckless Year’. F. Scott Fitzgerald showed through his writing that the 1920’s was all about Prohibition, Speak-Easies, new Automobiles, victory abroad, popular fads, and new wealth. That about sums it up; a decade of great recklessness in Social, Political, and economic areas of life.

Prohibition (1920-1933) was a great experiment called on by a religious, fundamentalist segment of the society. This forbade citizens from transporting, selling, or manufacturing alcohol. The idea was to stomp out dangerous and immoral behavior by neutralizing the effects of alcohol on society as a whole. This ultimately led to organizations of men creating bootleg alcohol. Many common Americans were now criminals according to these acts of prohibition. Gangster figureheads such as Al Capone and his escapades, were glorified by the populous. They were made extremely wealthy by their association with bootlegging. Speak Easies were places where intoxicating liquors were purchased and especially consumed.

Automobiles were popularized in the 1920’s. They were mass produced in factories such as that of Henry Ford. As a result the price lowered and they became an affordable luxury for many Americans. The car was romanticized as a status symbol, a sign of the progressiveness that was felt during that time. Former President, Herbert Hoover once said, ‘There will be a chicken in every pot, and a car in every garage.’

The victory of World War One led to many of these industrial and technological innovations. Taylorism, a byproduct of the war, led to more efficient management, and business and government began to merge. Durable goods were now available that changed the way people lived their lives, and made life easier more a great many people. These goods were well within the reach of the people whom felt socially secure enough to borrow money in order to pay for these ‘necessities’. This is an example of finance Capitalism.

The lifting of the World War One Sedition Acts led to social liberation among the people. As a result of the war, many styles had changed. More importantly significant steps were taken in enhancing the role of women and minorities in many aspects of life. World war One had not only won a moral victory for America, but had led to some leverage in civil rights movements and freedom from past stigmas. The fourteenth amendment to The Constitution was passed, granted suffrage or the women’s right to vote. Further Inquisitiveness led to employment for women and blacks, The Harlem renaissance, popular mobility for blacks, and nationalistic movements among minorities.

In essence, victory abroad led to victory at the home front. Things were seemingly well.

With rights come responsibility, but according to many people during the 1920’s, particularly white Angle Saxon’s felt that certain groups were a threat to the ideals of liberty. Religious Intolerance and racism ran rampid during this period of time. The government even past laws to limit immigration for certain ethnic groups of people. Chinese were all together banned from immigrating into The United States, and other huddled masses were turned away. Trial was even held condemning victims of these stereotypes. The Sacco and Vanzette trial is an ideal example. Other trials were held based on political and religious ideals of the time. Some examples of this are The Scopes Trial and The Palmer Raids which banished socialists from the country. There were even movements against ideals and races alike. The Red Scare was an example of the nation’s fear of communism, and the Ku Klux Klan has a resurgence(even in the North). Once the Klan marched on Washington. Americans were concerned with life in the post war era and entered a period of neo isolationism and ‘normalcy’ focusing on internal conflicts and their own prosperity.

The 1920’s was a great decade for fads. People would sit on flagpoles, swallow goldfish, drive automobiles up staircases, and perform other such non-chalant acts. Jazz music and swing dancing became popular among the majority of people, along with a new carefree party culture. In which, women were refereed to as ‘flappers’ , and wore shorten gowns adorned with beads. Louis Armstrong was a famous black musician who helped popularize jazz. Author Sinclair Lewis referred to the 1920’s as the ‘Jazz Age’. Music wasn’t the only form of entertainment affected by this culture. Silent films, cartoons, and the first radio broadcast in history by KDKA AM occurred evolved during this period.

While all of this was going on, government was focusing on business. Calvin Coolidge once said, ‘The business of America is business.’ Basically that reflects the general ideology of the time. Government passed protective tariffs and a revenue act in 1921, rather than focusing on the rest of the world. A few foreign peace accords were passed during this time and German reparations were reconstructed, but that’s about it. ‘New Wealth’ was being created both in industry and by private investors. New industries such as automotive, petrochemicals, and steel flourished. While non-industrial establishments such as farming, coal, and textiles suffered. even farmers overproduced as a result of the war inflating their own market. President Harding’s comment to this was, ‘Farmers never made much money anyway.’

Private citizens tried to get rich quick on the non-regulated Stock Market. In order to do this they needed to get credit. A window of opportunity was now open for the middle class which had not been there before. The Federal Reserve Board did not intervene because business was good, or so they thought.

Great debt was building up within the nation. Credit, demand, and the production of durable goods were up. People in debt with durable goods do not buy new products, they are simply not needed. This led to great surplus and unemployment. By 1927 things were pretty bad; people had borrowed up to ninety percent on margin, and most of their investments in the Stock Exchange were made with credit. In 1929, large investors started profit taking. Than it happened, the Stock Market crashed, and there had been many things eluding toward this fact that were ignored because of sociaty’s false pretenses.

Now to the human side. People were in debt, and took part in many bank runs to fine out there was no money. Eventually almost 13 million Americans were jobless, drifters. This all occurred under an orgy of foolishness.

All of these Social, Political, and Economical occurrences reflect the outer reckless mentality of the 1920’s. Recklessness is defined as being heedless, rash, and careless. These behaviors exhibit all of those traits. The 1920’s is truly a unique personification of this.

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