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In The Great Gatsby, does Fitzgerald describe Myrtle Wilson in a way that her...

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ShayMyName | Student | Honors

Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:30 PM via web

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In The Great Gatsby, does Fitzgerald describe Myrtle Wilson in a way that her physical appearance reflects her character?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:10 AM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter Two of The Great Gatsby, Myrtle Wilson is described as a woman in her middle thirties who is fairly heavy, but she carries "her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can." And, although she has no real beauty, there is "immediately [a] perceptible vitality" about her, as though her nerves are "continually smouldering." When Tom arrives at Wilson's Garage, Myrtle walks up to him, smiles slowly, and wets her lips before speaking in "a soft, coarse voice." Indeed, her physical appearance connotes her personality, one that attracts the brutish Tom Buchanan.

Before Myrtle leaves on the train for New York where the deceived Wilson believes she visits her sister, she changes into a "brown figured muslin" dress that is stretched tightly over her full hips, hips that Tom cannot help noticing as he helps her to the train platform.  Certainly, her attire here aids in her attempts to appear seductive and womanly. Once at the apartment, Myrtle again changes, both in clothing and in attitude. Now, she appears in "an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon" which rustles as she "swept about the room" in an attempt to appear elegant and sophisticated. When she is complimented on the dress, Mrs. Wilson feigns ennui,

"It's just a crazy old thing,....I Just slip it on sometimes when i don't care what I look like."

Further, she appears haughty. When Tom tells her to get ice, Myrtle "raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders.  'These people! You have to keep after them all the time.'"  In another example of Myrtle's haughty pretense, she speaks of her husband aloud, saying,

"I married him because I thought he was a gentleman," she said finally. "I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe."

Of course, it is most indecorous of Myrtle to speak of her husband in such a deprecatory manner before strangers such as Tom; this behavior is unbecoming and unworthy of a socialite. So, while her beautiful afternoon dress is becoming of a lady, Myrtle Wilson displays unintentionally her lack of manners and knowledge of what it is like to be a lady. Her demeanor is, certainly, some "crazy old thing."

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