It is popular belief that use of alcohol can relieve stress, which may encourage and sustain an individual's consumption (Aschenbrenner and Samantha 105). A possible explanation would be that alcohol takers act under the belief that relief from alcohol will occur. Agreeably, alcohol is the most used and abused drug in the world, probably owing to the fact that very few countries have banned it use, and measures dealing with sale and consumption of alcohol in many countries being loose, leading to increased alcohol dependence, even in the younger generations.
With regard to the highlighted facts on how people use alcohol to escape from reality, it is imperative to further illustrate how this escapism is evidenced in the novel. By referring to values concerning class, wealth, and etiquette, Fitzgerald uses alcohol to portray how it affected the society, especially in the social classes in existence (Friendrich 14). Fitzgerald particularly uses alcohol to represent the feelings of contradiction in upper class America. Despite the distinctive energetic and euphoric feeling in the 1920's, crisis and unease underlines the lives of the people, especially of the upper class (Doweiko 296).
In the American history, the period of the 1920's is largely referred to as the "roaring twenties." The Great Gatsby reflects life in this era, where prominence, novel trends in fashion, booming parties, and alcohol excess characterize life. In the novel, the author portrays the society's decay in moral values, primarily evidenced in greed, cynicism and worthless and void pursuit of happiness and pleasure (Friendrich 4). The heedless and excessive jubilation normally led to wild jazz music and decadent parties, epitomized by the opulent parties thrown by Gatsby every Saturday night. This lifestyle eventually led to the tainting of the American dream, due to the excessive desire for pleasure and money, which outmatched more noble ambitions. These parties reflect the fun American life in the 1920's, where Gatsby and suchlike individuals of the era displayed prominence by holding grand parties for their guests. Americans partied carelessly, and they threw exorbitant, endless galas in a bid to gain fame.
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Seemingly, alcohol contributes to America's distinctive energy. It directly affects mood, with a perceptible increase in euphoria and sociability. These kinds of high spirits guarantee the success of Gatsby's parties. In these parties "cocktails permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter" (p.42) with alcohol taking an intoxicating toll on the guests, they become happy and free.
Nick Carraway, a character in the novel, describes the scene at Gatsby's opulent summer parties, where he observes that Gatsby's house beautifully illuminates, with the jazz music blaring for the whole town to hear, with guests dancing and swilling alcohol until one in the morning. He describes the parties as “roaring.”
These parties portray the Americans' lifestyle and way of socializing in the period, when Americans gaily danced to joyous music at an accelerating and frantic pace. Their leisure time activities solely catered for fun, thus, negating responsibility, morals, religion, spirituality and the laws governing the land. Alcohol is, indeed, credited for the boldness of a certain girl who dances singly at a certain party. For courage, she "seizes a cocktail" and dumps it down (p.43). The author uses alcohol to point out a weakness in the guests, who only loved to party and drink and carelessly forgot to attend to any of their responsibilities. Consequently, there is excessive moral decadence and corruption brought by the parties and uncontrolled consumption of liquor. For instance, though selling of alcohol is banned, Gatsby gets away with it, and even gets away with the killing of Myrtle (Fitzgerald 42).
The author uses the character of Nick to point the disregard for propriety by Gatsby's guests, which illustrates the thoughtlessness and carelessness in the upper class of the 1920's. He notes that many of the guests who attended these parties were never invited. Carelessness is well depicted when a big group of people in the party resolves to carry on the party in the immensely huge and pricey fountain in Gatsby's lawn without concern for their health or the condition of fountain itself.
Alcohol also encourages the overturning of some of the social restrictions of a humble society. Initially introduced in the second chapter, the valley of ashes between New York City and West Egg consists of a lengthy stretch of desolate land, brought about by the dumping of ashes from the towns' industries. This valley symbolizes the moral and social rot that emanates from the uninhibited and reckless pursuit of irresponsible fun by individuals, especially at Gatsby's parties. The author notes that a lady visiting West Egg becomes affable and pleasant after taking a drink:"the woman said nothing" until unexpectedly, after two highballs, she became cordial (p.99).
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It is evident that a prohibition on the sale and use of alcohol was passedat the time to eradicate its use. However, it is evidently perceptible that in all of Gatsby's parties, alcohol is in abundance. Excess liquor and numerous cases of champagne are consumed in huge numbers. In the novel, Tom even shows up with a bottle of liquor as he, Jordan, Daisy, Nick and Gatsby get ready for a drive. It is also evident that police show favoritism by ignoring the rich who use alcohol, despite the laws. This is seen when a Gatsby produces a white card to a police officer who stops him on the road, in a manner to intimidate the officer (Haeg 43). As such, the author uses alcohol to illustrate that despite what the law asserts, people, and especially those in high ranks in the society, will always break it and indulge in whatever they please.
In addition, the author notes that the image of affluence and prosperity presented by Gatsby is actually fabricated. He points out that Gatsby was poor in his childhood, and got most of his money from illegal business undertakings, especially from selling alcohol illegally. The author uses alcohol to show that the government of the day was unrealistic in fully imparting the law by showing favoritism to the wealthy. This hesitation in arresting and prosecuting people deemed to be wealthy consequently led to diminished integrity in the power and authority of the law of the land.
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