During Chinas long revolutionary years the state both promoted and negated new roles for women. The most severe reaction against female activism was the Guomindangs counter revolution, called the White Terror (1927 - 1928), when female activists were accused of being instigators of societal chaos. During Chiang Kai-sheks relentless hunt for Communists, thousand of women were murdered and raped, including those who had simply bobbed their hair. The Communists, for their part, turned away from what they saw as bourgeois feminist reforms to attack the socioeconomic conditions they perceived as the source of all female oppressions. The idea was that once gender difference was erased, women would be freed to help spearhead the new society. Mao Zedong coined the phrase Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and set in motion a campaign to get women out of the home and into the work force. Selections from oral histories collected during the period illustrate his attempts to mobilize the lowest in society, the female peasant, so she could confront feudal fathers, husbands or landlords.
Picture this – it's the early 1920s, and the wealthy elite of America are having a giant party. As in, a decade-long party. There's lots of drinking, dancing, singing, mingling, and at the top of the social food chain are the ultra-rich. The wealthy elite live such a glamorous, stylish lifestyle that it's hard not to envy them. Who wouldn't do just about anything to get to this position?
You can think of "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" as a big fat reality check. It's the literary equivalent of Fitzgerald standing back, holding out his arms, and going, "Hold on a second, people – let's just take a minute to think." He takes a look at just what people seem willing to do to become one of the ultra-rich – and it's not a pretty picture. The problem is, the story explains, it's part of America's culture – from its founding fathers onward – to preach success at any cost. It's not so much the success that troubles Fitzgerald, but the "at any cost" bit. A lot of times, in order to climb just a little bit higher, we have to step on somebody. Or many somebodys.
A lot has changed since the 1920s, but lots is also still the same. We're still bred for success, from pre-school on forward. You're taught to go out there, grab the world by the horns, and succeed . Competition is naturally part of this process. But "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" demands that we take a look back and recognize how much all this success, status, and wealth really costs.