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The Great Gatsby, The 1920s, and a Drifting Era
The decade of the 1920s was a transitional, restless era. Moral values were
changed dramatically after the first World War, creating a time in which people were
adrift, wandering through life, and wondering what was in their future. This restlessness
and drifting feeling that many people experienced throughout the 1920s is skillfully
captured by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1920s novel, The Great Gatsby. Through his
description of landscapes in this novel, Fitzgerald incorporates a floating, unsettled tone,
which was the tone of the 1920s. In order to add emphasis to the theme of drifting,
Fitzgerald tells his story through the narrative of an unstable drifter, Nick Carraway. The
descriptions of these landscapes are seen through the eyes and voice of someone who has
never been able to settle down himself. In The Great Gatsby, descriptions of specific
landscapes, such as Daisy and Toms house, the train station, and Gatsbys party create a
very significant theme: the 1920s and the people living in that era were adrift, roaming
The first scene in which the floating theme is encountered is the description of
Tom and Daisys house when Nick first comes to visit. Through Nicks eyes as he first
glances around the parlor, Fitzgerald creates images of flowing curtains, and metaphors
comparing the carpet to an open sea. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in
at one end and out on the other like pale flags...and then rippled over the wine-colored
rug, making a shadow on it as the wind does the sea (12). He describes the large sofa as
the only stationary object in the room (12). The portrayal of the two women, Daisy
Buchanan and Jordan Baker, gives the most effective sense of floating in the entire
description of the landscape. Two young women were buoyed up as though upon an
anchored balloon...their dresses were fluttering as if they had just been blown back from a
short flight (12). There is a sensation that nothing is stable; everything is restless. This
very much describes the life that Daisy, Tom and Jordan lead - on the edge, doing
whatever pleases them. This description is a foreshadow, predicting the carelessness and
instability of the characters lives, and the consequences of their attitudes. At the end of
the book, when Daisy hits Myrtle Wilson while driving Gatsbys car, she and Tom are able
to carelessly run off. They are able to forget about the incident that just occ...