The Roaring Twenties: Jazz, Prohibition, and the Great Gatsby

The Roaring Twenties: Jazz, Prohibition, and the Great Gatsby


The Roaring Twenties, also known as the Jazz Age or the Golden Twenties, was a period of economic prosperity, cultural dynamism, and social change in the United States and Western Europe from 1920 to 1929. It was characterized by a booming economy, technological innovation, and the rise of modernist art and culture.

This article explores three key aspects of the Roaring Twenties: the emergence of jazz music, the era of Prohibition, and the literary masterpiece “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Jazz Age

The Jazz Age was a cultural phenomenon that emerged in the United States during the 1920s, characterized by the widespread popularity of jazz music and dance. Jazz originated in African American communities in the South and quickly spread to urban centers such as New York City, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Jazz music, with its syncopated rhythms, improvisation, and energetic performances, captured the spirit of the Roaring Twenties and became the soundtrack of the era. Jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith achieved fame and popularity, influencing popular culture and transforming the music industry.


Prohibition, enacted by the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920, banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. The goal of Prohibition was to reduce crime, poverty, and social problems associated with alcohol abuse.

However, Prohibition had unintended consequences, including the rise of organized crime, bootlegging, and speakeasies (illegal bars). Gangsters such as Al Capone became notorious for their involvement in the illegal alcohol trade, and corruption and violence were widespread.

The Great Gatsby

“The Great Gatsby,” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925, is considered one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century. Set in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island during the summer of 1922, the novel explores themes of love, wealth, and the American Dream.

The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, is a mysterious and wealthy man who throws extravagant parties in the hope of attracting his former lover, Daisy Buchanan. Through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway, the novel reveals the decadence and moral decay of the Jazz Age, as well as the disillusionment and emptiness that lurk beneath the surface of wealth and glamour.


The Roaring Twenties left a lasting legacy that continues to influence modern culture and society:

  • Cultural Innovation: The Roaring Twenties was a period of cultural innovation and creativity, with advances in music, literature, art, and fashion that continue to inspire contemporary artists and creators.
  • Social Change: The era witnessed significant social change, including the liberation of women, the rise of consumer culture, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement, laying the groundwork for future social movements and progress.
  • Economic Expansion: The Roaring Twenties was a time of economic expansion and prosperity, fueled by technological innovation, industrial growth, and mass production, setting the stage for the modern consumer economy.
  • Cultural Mythology: The Roaring Twenties has become a cultural myth, romanticized as a time of freedom, excitement, and glamour, while also serving as a cautionary tale about the excesses and inequalities of unchecked capitalism.