How Did Prohibition Impact F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway Essay

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Prohibition Impact American Authors F. Scott Fitzgerald Ernest Hemingway

Prohibition and the roaring 20s:

The novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway

The consumption of alcohol defines the works of both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. The quintessential Fitzgerald heroine is the flapper -- the short-haired, carefree, hard-drinking heroine of works such as Tender is the Night and the Great Gatsby. The iconic 'Hemingway man' of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms was a hard-drinking man. It is deeply ironic that both authors came of age as writers during the era of Prohibition and published their most famous novels when drinking was technically illegal in the United States. ('Technically' illegal, despite the fact that the law was widely ignored). However, this is no coincidence -- just as must as The Great War, Prohibition showed the corrupt nature of modern society in the view of these authors, hence its centrality in their works.

This fact is perhaps most explicitly illustrated in the Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby. In Fitzgerald's most famous work, the titular hero has made vast sums of money as a bootlegger, after distinguishing himself fighting in World War I. Everyone knows he has done this and it is illegal, yet it is only tacitly referenced by society and people prefer to look the other way. Gatsby himself creates a false persona of a man who has gone to Oxford, even going so far as to order his shirts from abroad to create an image of someone who is a 'man about town.' "I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition" (Fitzgerald, Chapter 4). Yet it is a lie: part of the project of self-improvement he began many years ago back in the Midwest when he was growing up poor.

People go to Gatsby's parties but they disdain him on a personal level because they know he is not 'old money' and his gains are ill-gotten. They enjoy the fruits of his labor in the form of alcohol. "He's a bootlegger,' said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers. 'One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil. Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass'" (Fitzgerald, Chapter 4). In the same breath, the women sneer at Gatsby and drink his alcohol. They drink, but they do not need to defy the law to make their money. In fact, they do not even need to pay to drink, given that Gatsby is all too willing to spend his money to attract fashionable people to bring Daisy back into his orbit.

In the novel, "Gatsby appears in the guise of the archetypal, if somewhat misguided, self-made man" (Decker 52). He is self-made through criminality, but not necessarily a 'bad' criminality, given that everyone, even the most moral people of the novel are equally 'criminal.' They drink more than Gatsby, but are not socially stigmatized for it. Prohibition enables Gatsby to make a fortune along the lines of the archetypal 'self-made man' but not in the way he truly desires. Prohibition enables Gatsby to superficially live the dream of America, a dream which he could not have lived had alcohol not been illegal although he cannot buy class.

No one else in the novel is sown profiting so wildly from the opportunities of American capitalism as gangsters. Few legitimate opportunities exist for people like Gatsby who wish to exceed the boundaries of their existence. Gatsby did not wish to be a gangster; he wanted to be respectable as is evidenced by a journal he kept as a boy: "General Resolves No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable] No more smokeing or chewing Bath every other day Read one improving book or magazine per week Save $5.00 {crossed out} $3.00 per week Be better to parents" (Fitzgerald, Chapter 9). Because of the unfairness of American society, people like Gatsby are deemed criminals but brutish, prejudiced men like Tom Buchannan are deemed respectable because they inherited their money.

Although Gatsby's service during the war is not prominently featured in the novel, there is a parallel between…[continue]

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