Many of us have encountered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in one form or another, be it reading the novel or seeing one of the movies. I got to thinking about Gatsby when I was brainstorming ideas for the topic of Prohibition, and I found that are more prohibitions presented in the novel than the one covered in the Eighteenth Amendment. Here are some prohibitions I found while reviewing the novel.
Alcohol: This is the one most of us probably remember from reading the novel in high school. Prohibition (with a capital ‘P’) was a Constitutional Amendment, making it the law of the land. The novel shows us how easy it is for the government to make everyday citizens criminals by prohibiting something most people have no issues with.
Gambling: There is a brief mention of gambling in the novel related to fixing the 1919 World Series. The lesson is sports and gambling can be rigged, but the average Joe (or Jane) is prohibited from knowing the fix is in.
Making Money: The Great Gatsby shows us everybody is allowed to make money, but new money is prohibited from mixing with old money.
Friendships: Gatsby and Nick may be the only authentic friendship of the novel. Fitzgerald shows us most friendships are superficial at best, and friendships between classes are an illusion and are ultimately prohibited.
Affairs: Affairs can be tolerated if they are kept quiet. Affairs are prohibited if emotions are involved and/or they can damage social status.
Social Class: The most important prohibition The Great Gatsby teaches us is that not matter what you do, how much money you have, or how hard you work you are prohibited from moving up in social class. You can pretend, you can posture, you can even change your life but you will never be accepted by those of a higher social class.
The Great Gatsby works on several levels, one is as an observation of prohibitions (those things we can’t and shouldn’t do). Now that the novel is public domain it’s easy to get yourself a free or really inexpensive ($1.99 Barnes and Noble Nook) copy. Whether you have read or are new to the novel its well worth the read.
• “There was not a moving up into vacated places; there was simply an anachronistic staying on between a vanishing past and an incalculable future.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald-
• “I should like to tidy things up and disappear.” -Virginia Woolf-
• “Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.” -H.G. Wells-
• “I do have a sense, and I’ve never not had it, of how easily things can vanish.” -Doris Lessing-
• “Plunder, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.” -Ambrose Bierce-