“The parties were bigger. The pace was faster, the shows were broader, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser and the liquour was cheaper.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
By the early 1920’s, WWI appeared to be nothing more than a melancholic murmur of the past, as a new era, bold and euphoric, revealed itself. This era was known as the Roaring Twenties. No longer fettered to the carnage and destruction of war, the youth of America took advantage of their newly-found freedom, determined to live life with unrestricted liberation and passion. These youth were known as Bright Young Things.
Bright Young Things lived rebelliously, approaching life with a sort of reckless abandon; they drove carelessly fast, spent ridiculous amounts of money, and always seemed to be just a little bit tipsy. The Women, who were known as “Flapper Girls”, exulted in their sexuality, flaunting plummeting necklines and short dresses, all the while maintaining a flirtatious yet brooding attitude. Indeed, to any Bright Young Thing—male or female–life appeared to be some glamorous, never-ending party, one similar to the lavish, extravagant nature of Jay Gatsby’s own soirees.
And, like most Bright, Young men, Jay Gatsby, after serving in the war, developed an achingly prominent desire to live life to its fullest. However, one might argue that Gatsby possessed a Bright, Young disposition long before the term “Bright Young Thing” was even coined; for, even as a young boy, Gatsby had wished to live a “full” life. After the war, he had, in an attempt to attain this “fullness”, also aspired to attain one of the key fundaments associated with The American Dream: prosperity. And he proved successful in his endeavours; by the year 1922–the year Nick Carraway moved to West Egg–Gatsby had accumulated an almost gaudy wealth for himself, one that he had intended on using to rekindle his fizzled-out romance with Daisy Buchanan.
Because it was the gaudiness of his wealth that funded his even gaudier parties, which always took place at his castle-esque manor, which also just so happened to stand–immense and captivating–across the water from Daisy’s own home. By Gatsby’s fanciful logic–by the impassioned nature of his Bright, Young idealism–Daisy would, without a doubt, one day chance upon the grandness of his home and the grandness of his parties to which she would, in response, express her undying love for him. And exactly why did Gatsby believe this to be so?
Because Daisy, too, was a Bright Young Thing and, harboured within the grandiose mentality of every Bright Young Thing, was a lust for money. This lust is specifically notable in Daisy’s own character, for even her voice was “full of money”(127); it seemed as though money was ingrained into her every word, action, and beat of her heart—something that seemed to hold true for every Bright Young individual. It’s no wonder Gatsby believed his wealth was the only means by which to win over Daisy’s affections; in the 1920’s, wealth was romance. Because wealth was what promised liberation and euphoria–if you were rich enough, you could do anything, and go anywhere. Wealth was what made life appear to be some glamorous, never-ending party. And it was this very notion that every Bright Young Thing seemed to idolize, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan included.
It all sounds so superficial, doesn’t it? Yet, I can’t help but see the appeal of such a lifestyle. There is a sort of dark romanticism about it– the brazenness, the hedonism– that makes my heart race with an unfathomable admiration. To live fast and defiantly. To constantly thrill and be thrilled whether it be by the privileges of riches or the shock of scandal. How ravishingly tempting, indeed! And to assume the form of a Bright Young Thing—now, that sure would be something.
Of course, we do not live in the Roaring Twenties anymore–that was a decade-long era that met its maker as soon as the stock markets crashed in 1929. But I still like to imagine what it would have been like to be a Bright Young Thing–someone like Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan. It is certainly something I have often mused about. That is why, below, I have included a compilation of flash poems whose narrations are inspired by the 1920’s and are approached with a Bright, Young outlook.
A warm, honeyed glow
drips from the pearled strings
of the chandelier,
the whispers of champagned
tipsiness on our lips.
With the feathers from her hair
she weaved for herself a
pair of bird’s wings and,
with a sort of gaudy liberation,
she flew out into the night,
flaunting her freedom
to the winking stars
and the art deco printed sky.
–The Invention of the Flapper
I hear she hides all sorts
of secrets in the
sly curve of her bobbed hair.
— M i s c h i e f
- A pack of Lucky Strikes
–Bright, Young Essentials
We drive sober
but we drive fast–
under the influence
of our boldness
and indestructible youth.
We are as neurotically reckless
as a flapper’s dress is short;
very, without any question.
A delicate wisp
of cigarette smoke twirls
about her rouged lips.
Mouth parted seductively,
“Pour me another, you ol’ goof!”
—But of course!
you can get away
with just about anything
so long as you are
We’re the bee’s knees, baby!
–Never forget it
2 thoughts on “Bright Young Things”
I love the concept of this piece! I, personally, have never heard of the term “Bright Young Things”, which was something I really enjoyed learning about through this piece!
You probably don’t know this about me, but I have secretly been OBSESSED with all of your poetry since we came into AP last year. Your poetry is always so beautiful, but they seem to always come with an even more beautiful message. In this piece, the message behind your flash poetry came from the prose at the beginning of the blog. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the message is about the temptation that hedonism provides and the romanticism surrounding it all.
I especially loved “Bright, Young Essentials” because it was incredibly simple yet very pleasing to read!
In terms of improvement, I am really of no help because I can’t find any! However, to maybe satisfy my personal wants, I would have loved to see more poetry!
All the love,
Awww Victoria–Thank you SO much!
First of all, I am glad you learned something new. I was also unfamiliar with the term “Bright Young Things” until a couple of summers ago when I had first read “Bright Young Things–A Modern Guide to the Roaring Twenties” by Alison Maloney. It’s a treasure. It has everything from information about the time period itself to throwback jazz playlists to the lingo of the 20’s. And it has a really pretty cover: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-XA4KA26zUOc/UrO8DW8kKbI/AAAAAAAABfc/4C_xc0UDspY/s1600/BrightYoungThings.jpg
AND OMG–you’ve flattered me speechless. I honestly don’t know how to thank you for such a kind compliment. But THANK YOU, and I am glad you have enjoyed my poetry. And you are absolutely correct–this piece was meant to romanticize and glorify the hedonism with which Bright Young Things approached life during the Roaring Twenties.
I also wanted to add some more poems in the mix, but alas, I couldn’t think of anything else to add–at least, nothing that was decent or relevant. But, if more inspiration comes to me in the future, and If I end up writing more for the Bright Young Thing poetry series, I’ll be sure to let you know! 🙂
Thanks again for taking the time to read my piece and for your kind words! <3
Lots of love,