Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Women in the 20s
East vs. West
The Jazz Age
American Dream
The class

The Jazz Age

Jazz was born around 1895 in New Orleans. Originally it was a mixture of Blues and marching band music and was played by African-Americans and Creoles on old U.S Army instruments like the cornet or marching drums. It is also marked through the use of improvisation, because most of the former virtuoso jazz musicians weren’t able to read music at all. Soon the white man noticed the popularity of jazz and started to play it too. Therefore the European and African music culture melted together and a new style of jazz was born.

The twenties, also known by some as the "Jazz Age", were the time for experiments and discovering new jazz-styles. In that period of growing industrialisation black people and new-Orleans-musicians moved from the country site south to Chicago. There they helped creating the (white) Chicago-Style. Lots of Chicago musicians finally moved to New York, which was an important centre of jazz, too.

Jazz bands started the musical revolution using for the first time the saxophone. It has been known to provoke close intimate dancing and many people were shocked by the loud and extraordinary sound of the sax (which happens to sound like sex).That’s why older people blamed jazz to be a bad influence on the younger generation. They began to rebel and refuse to follow the moral traditions.

With the help of national radio, the barely known new jazz sound spread quickly over America, and found many supporters. Lots of important clubs, or speakeasies (illegal pubs), helped jazz bands to get famous and featured their songs. Jazz often got connected with alcohol, intimate dancing and “other socially questionable activities”.

The Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby:

In New York the Jazz Age was a time where hardly anybody worried about money. “It was in such a profusion around you.”(p.3,3.paragraph) and prodigality belonged to everybody’s life-style. This is also a reason for the hospitality that was indispensable for all the parties that were given. To throw a party is not a cheap affair and so stinginess was very unpopular and supposed to be unfriendly.

Gatsby’s parties are typical for this time period. On his extravagant festivities “charm, notoriety [and] mere good manners weighted more than money as a social asset.” (p.3,3.paragraph). Proofs for this statement can be in all the gossip about Gatsby that is talked by his guests. Interesting at this point is that most of his guests do not even know him and spread rumours about him all the same. That’s how he got his notoriety: “I‘ll bet he killed a man.”(p.39,9). The good manners are reflected by gentlemen who always offer a helpful hand to charming ladies.

At Gatsby’s parties “people were not invited – they went there […] came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.”(p.36,23-29) For this spontaneous society Gatsby’s huge “party lawn” is an amusement park, a place animated with chatter and laughter where “casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot”(p.36,6f) are on the agenda. Since these parties are very large, there is time for privacy when anybody wants it and time for intimate moments without anybody realizing.

While reading Nick Carraway’s descriptions of Gatsby’s garden and all the decorations that are put up for the party, it seems a little exaggerated: “Several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree out of Gatsby’s enormous garden”(p.35,16-18) are hung up so that “the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors”(p.36,3). Also, Gatsby does not save any money with the food. Each evening a great buffet table with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, turkey, ham, salads and pastry pigs waits for his guests(cf.p.35,18f). Once a week five crates of oranges and lemons are delivered to impress his visitors with fresh fruits(cf.p.35, 11). Despite Prohibition alcohol is poured out.

The way the people dress during this jazz age period is also very interesting. Their hair is “shorn in strange new ways”(p.36,4) and around the women’s necks are “shawls beyond the dreams of Castile”(p.36/4).They wear “golden and silver slippers”(p.109,16f) and the best example is Gatsby “in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie” (p.65,1f) himself.

Moreover, Gatsby’s guests are, of course, entertained by cocktail music played by a typical jazz orchestra consisting of oboes, trombones, saxophones, viols, cornets and piccolos, low and high drums (p.35,23ff). They know how to play popular jazz songs, for example the “neat, sad little waltz of that year” (p.82,32) “Three O’Clock in the Morning” or W.C.Handy’s (1873-1958) “Beale Street Blues”, a famous jazz blues melody. Another song that is played is Vladimir Tostoff’s “Jazz History of the World”.