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Materialism And Consumerism In The 1920s

A crucial transformation to the structure of American culture during the 1920s was the rise of consumerism and materialism. As the country experienced an extraordinary economic boom, the outlook of America shifted. People began receiving higher wages, and there was a sudden increase of spending on discretionary goods which advertisements claimed peoplecould not live without. The progress of the automobile industry, radio and motion picture production, and advanced technologies made it possible for this great escalation of the economy. There were many notable critics of the decade that made their opinions known in various ways. One such critic was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote the novel The Great Gatsby. In this novel, he is critical of the1920s as the obsession of consumerism and materialism flourish throughout the United States. Fitzgerald feels that it is this mindset that ultimately leads to the tragedies and miseries at the end of the novel, as well as at the foreseen end of the 1920s.

The Great Gatsby portrays an image of abundant leisure and excess, which parallels similar ideas with those of the 1920s. To illustrate this,Nick Carraway, the story’s narrator, compares his “eye-sore” of a house with the mansion
Radio's emergence

|Contents (1920s) |
|Newspapers |
|Publications |
|Cinema |
|Radio |
|Advertising |
|Television|

Radio dominated the Twenties, with roughly 3 million Americans owning radios by 1923. Most listeners still used crystal sets with earphones to receive news and bulletins, advertising and music. The appeal of the spoken word attracted audiences and advertisers, while publishers were forced to improve upon its image to retain profits. Television, capable of wirelesstransmission of moving pictures, was first demonstrated in 1926, combining sight and sound to rival radio. 


Tabloids continued being characterised by scandal and crime. Also termed "jazz journalism", this style of media reflected the decadent lifestyle and adventurous spirit of the time. The press hounded Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris in1927. His daring 3610-mile journey, completed in 33.5 hours, made him an international hero. It was an era when anyone who appeared in the press became an instant celebrity.




In this decade, termed the "Roaring Twenties", jazz journalism was dominant. The press was often preoccupied with entertainment, rather than concentrating on reporting significant stories or intepreting news events.Typical stories glorified celebrities and built up sordid events, such as murder trials, into national sensations. The tabloids thrived on controversy. To gain readership and denounce tabloids, respectable publications would print opinions, such as: "Tabloids are turning readers into witless gossips, gutter vamps and backyard sheiks".




A variety of new publications emerged in the Twenties. To keepup with the face pace and maximize personal effeciency, De Witt and Lila Wallace started the Reader's Digest magazine, a "condensation" of news and entertainment articles taken from other magazines and reprinted. The first issue was printed in a Greenwich Village basement in New York City, 5 Feb 1922, by DeWitt and his wife, on a borrowed $5000. By balancing national politics, health and socialand business articles, the magazine reached out to a diverse audience. By 1996, Reader's Digest was the world's most widely read magazine....over 27 million copies sold in 19 languages bought monthly.

Time magazine made its debut in March 1923, as the first condensed weekly magazine, covering internnational affairs, science, religion, business and education, etc. with in-depth commentaries and...
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