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The Jazz Age and the Great Depression

Just between the end of World War I and the start of the Great Depression, the Jazz Age is mostly characterized by modernism, among other things. At this time, people enjoyed the progressive trend of technology. Moral values had been deteriorating, but there was an inclining trend for the US stock market. The 1920s also known as the “Roaring Twenties” was a state of revolutionary change, especially in the arts, economy, and technology. There was production of automobiles, airplanes, and radios. Machineries were also used instead of the traditional human labor tasks.

These, along with the implementation of the eight-hour work day, stimulated the economy (Turner 52). Perhaps the greatest contribution to this age came from Henry Ford when he perfected the assembly-line method. With this, he was able to radically reduce the price of a car, making it affordable for any average person. With increasing sales of car, there was also an increasing consumption of oil. Thus, the oil industry soared and there were efforts to create more and smoother roads. Additionally, this method allowed the mass production of new technologies, such as radios, refrigerators, and telephones, further advancing modernization.

America moved from a heavy industry to a consumer products industry (Best 83). The migration of people from rural communities to the cities dramatically increased, particularly African Americans and European immigrants. As a result, much space in the city had been occupied. This entailed the construction of tall buildings and skyscrapers. Airplanes can be utilized more, although limited to wealthy people only, as several airline companies were established. Aviation industry was further boosted by the first transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh in a single-engine plane (Best 113).

Radio was also introduced, which had become a source of entertainment and information for the Americans. At the same time that the electricity was made readily available, more and more Americans purchased the radio (Dumenil 152). Families together listen to their favorite radio programs and became updated with current events through the news. Realizing the influence of the radio, advertising agencies utilized the power of the radio by airing their ads (Dumenil 167). However, the most impact of the radio can be typified by the popularity of jazz music.

This music originated from the Black communities in New Orleans which eventually dominated the nation (Cowley and Cowley 83). Also during the 1920s, Hollywood stepped to the next level when the voices of the actors were heard for the first time in the theaters and the film industry became a big business (Dumenil 175). In literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald writings were representative of the time. He first coined the term “Jazz Age” in 1922 (Bryer 239). He was first recognized when he depicted the youth culture in This Side of Paradise.

However, the most notable among his contributions is his masterpiece The Great Gatsby (Bruccoli 264). The novel expressed the vital spirit of the country, especially the decadence and decline of the society (Bryer 246). The novels of William Faulkner portrayed the culture of the South in particular. Ernest Hemingway published antiwar novels such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms (Lang 557). In general, the writings of the time symbolized the emotions of the people of the Lost Generation, those who felt disillusioned and alienated because of the recent war.

They wrote rebelliously and fought censorship for profanity and sexuality (Bryer 250). At the same time, the literature of the Black also flourished in what is known as the Harlem Renaissance (Bontemps 23). In addition, there was a giant step for politics. Women were finally given the right to vote. Opportunities for women became available in the workforce, although still stereotyped to secretarial and clerical works. Nevertheless, this entailed the reinforcement of the rights of women (Fishwick 119). As a result of more social freedom, the “flapper” culture emerged.

The flappers were the women who wore short hair and short skirt and were independent-minded. These women became a symbol of modernization (Bryer 322). Sexual revolution followed as there was a changing perception toward sex and birth control was now accepted (Bryer 346). Unfortunately for the Americans, due to the stiffer competition with Britain, foreign investors decided to withdraw their stocks in America. This was followed by the continuous withdrawal of the Americans themselves. Finally, on October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed (Parrish 301). America’s stocks further sunk with the rampant practice of margin buying.

The economic collapse led to a decline in the production of goods and a momentous rise in unemployment (Parrish 314). These, together with other factors, brought another dark age in the history, the Great Depression. As a result of the industrialization, people began buying merchandises on credit. When the economy suffered, those who promised to pay on installment failed to pay (Leuchtenburg 183). Thus, the creditors were left with a number of bad accounts. Consequently, Americans were unable to buy consumer goods, and factories were unable to provide jobs for the people were not able to buy their products (Leuchtenburg 210).

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