The Roaring 20s

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The Roaring 20s

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By Jane Oh

Flappers dancing in twinkling dresses, endless parties of colorful, extravagant music and fashion, careless happiness fueled by unimaginable wealth–all set in history as the roaring twenties. The twenties were a decade of change in America, surfacing exciting topics, such as the American Dream, yet also presented to be one of the darkest moments of history. This glittering decade is replayed in books, pop culture, and history lessons, but why is the decade so iconically known? What is the significance of the roaring 20s and how is it important to us today, almost 100 years later?

The 1920s are often referred to as a decade of change, and in a sense, this was true. Women had just won the right to vote at the beginning of the decade, and their gender roles were being challenged. The flapper, an iconic image, embodied not only the exciting cultural spirit of the 20s, but also an image of women as outgoing dancers, gamblers, and smokers, which contrasted radically from women’s role in society previous of the twentieth century. However, women’s roles were still very conserved, as they were still expected to stay home and properly take care of children. Although, the 20s did prove to change the lives of American women in different ways, one example being the amount women in the workplace proliferating quickly, especially as the telephone administrators.


There was also a surge of improvements in leisures and luxuries of life, even though not necessarily everyone owned them. Improvements included the washing machine, telephones, birth control, movies, jazz music, parties, technology, etc.


The 20s were also, and probably best remembered, as a decade of unimaginable wealth. In Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, he explains the utopian aspect of this wealth in his writing, as “[Daisy began to cry, as she had] never seen such—such beautiful shirts before’”.  The 20s had the image of a lifestyle that was unachievable for majority of America, and it sparked a lot of greed in people, which would eventually lead to the stock market crash of 1929, and the great depression.

Despite the improvements of life and the glorified ideology of the American Dream, in which wealth and success were achievable for everyone, the 1920s proved to be a very hard time for many Americans.

Realistically only extremely rich, white people were able to enjoy the” leisurely life “of the roaring 20s and all of its new innovations and improvements. For example, the newly developed washing machine was one development of the 20s, yet by the 30s, 75% of Americans did not own one.

Another dark moment of the 1920s was the new rise of the KKK in which white supremacists terrorized African American people and nurtured the fear and hate of immigrants, jews, catholics, and other racial minorities. Racism was very prominent in the 1920s, and prejudice against immigrants grew dangerously powerful.

The image of the rich, luxurious 20’s lifestyle was only a distant, unreachable dream for many. The American Dream also highlighted a glorified sense of money, and may have sparked jealousy and greed throughout America, especially for the wealthy, all in a effort to live the best, most extravagant life possible.

Out of unimaginable wealth came the worst economic crisis America ever faced, causing people to continue to suffer through repercussions or following events such as the crash of 29, the great depression, and extreme poverty.


Suddenly, in 1929, the economy of America took a terrible fall. The Stock Market reached its highest peak, but due to the government raising interests and a large portion of ordinary people purchasing easy stocks for money, the stock market completely crashed in under one week. Millions of investors and businesses lost money and Wall Street was set into a state of panic. By 1933, almost half of American banks collapsed.


Throughout the 30s, approximately 40% of the country’s population lived in poverty as the Great Depression took place. In the 1940s, the world lived through the conditions of World War II and by the 50s, the poverty rate slowly rose back down to 22%, and continued to decrease as the economy improved.

The 1920s brought us flappers, jazz, incredible house parties, and new luxuries and improvements in life and technology. However, out of this paradise came some of the worst decades for America and the people in it. While the American Dream may have sparked hope and brought a type of lifestyle full of vibrant color and excitement, it was unrealistic and unreachable for everyone. The 1920s remind us today, almost a century later, of the importance of understanding that although we are surrounded by the image of wealth and luxury, this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has that lifestyle. The unimaginable wealth of the 20s was not reachable and very distant for many, as Fitzgerald stated in The Great Gatsby, “[Gatsby] stretched out his arms toward the dark water…distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away… “

Moments can be magical with incredible luxuries, but it is important to check in with your values, watch out and take care of people who may be in need, and provide happiness and awareness in today’s world.