The Roaring Twenties is a term popularly applied to the decade of the 1920s, characterized by jazz music, speakeasies, flappers, Tin Lizzies, and good times. The attitude of the Roaring Twenties emerged as a reaction to the horrors of World War I and came to a definitive end with the Wall Street Crash of October 1929, which initiated the Great Depression. One of the most concise depictions of the Roaring Twenties is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.
Following the devastation of World War I, the United States in particular was in a strong economic position, buoyed by the pro-business policies of Republican Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Consumer spending increase dramatically, largely due to developments in mass production. Automobiles, radios (a new technology) and motion pictures, along with the popularity of jazz music, all helped to create the idea of leisure.
Additionally, the United States had outlawed the production, sale, and distribution of alcohol, a program known as Prohibition. The end result was to actually increase organized crime and make drinking an underground or countercultural phenomenon. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby has accumulated his wealth as a bootlegger, importing illegal alcohol. Other notable literary works of the Roaring Twenties include All Quiet on the Western Front, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and James Joyce’s Ulysses.