In the aftermath of World War I, the 1920s twinkled on the horizon with the promise of hope. Bookended by the epidemic of 1920 and the The Wall Street crash of 1929, the decade was a time of decadence, frivolity, and escape. Rich or poor, people lived in the moment, loved anything new and the young partied like there was no tomorrow. A readers look into the decade can be found in the era's greatest memoir: The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald. F. Scott Fitzgerald applied the social and political issues of the 1920's and its innumerable characteristics to enhance the plot of The Great Gatsby.
The 1920's were also known as the "Jazz Age". Rightly named because of the appearance of jazz music. The word "jazz" took the country by storm. Clothing stores advertised "jazz styles," poets wrote "jazz poetry". In the early 1920s, classic jazz was at its height, with either a lone pianist or a band containing banjo, horns, clarinets, and drums backing the female singer. This was music that fit the mood of blacks that had recently come to the cities, who had left the single guitarist or string bands of the South. And by the mid-1920s, jazz was being played in dance halls, roadhouses, and speakeasies around the country. Jazz, which had been the product of wandering black musicians, the poorest of the South, had become a big business, and dancing swept a country that seemed convinced wealth and well-being would never come to an end.
Dancing consumed the country so much so that contests called "dance marathons"
were held. The object of these contests was to see which couple could dance the longest. The dancers competed for cash prizes of as much as several thousand dollars. These exhausting contests lasted for days. Dancers would kick, punch, and offer their partner smelling salts and ice packs in order to keep the other awake. Some devious contestants would slip in their rivals' drinks laxative or sleeping pills. After seven to nine days (with one in Chicago lasting a record of 119 days), dancers would start acting strangely. Women would come to hate their dance partners so much they would scream when they saw them. One man had hallucinations that someone was trying to steal his wallet, and he was disqualified after running off the dance floor trying to catch the thief. Participants danced continuously with fifteen minute breaks for every hour. The breaks consisted of foot massages, food, water, and a check of vital life signs. It was not uncommon for dancers to die from heart failure while dancing.
The 1920's were an exciting and sometimes a frightening time to be young. It was the
era of the First Youth Rebellion. Before, boys dreamed of being the epitome of gallantry, industry, and idealism; girls tried to fit the role of a modest and maidenly woman. Now all that had changed. The new questioning of their elders' authority, combined with the relative affluence of the decade, gave birth to a new breed of youth who claimed (and sometimes were) to be tough,...