How Did Tom And Myrtle Meet

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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Myrtle, a few drinks of whiskey inside of her, confides to Nick how she met Tom. She was heading to New York City to see her sister. She and Tom ended up on two little seats on the train facing each other "that are always the last ones left on the train." Myrtle was attracted initially by Tom's patent leather shoes and dress suit. This suggests she was attracted by his money. She says she kept pretending to look at the advertisement over his head, but apparently she was able to signal her interest--or Tom saw her as ripe for the plucking--because he ended up sitting next to her. Again, it is his clothes that she remembers. She never provides any physical description of him, because it's his wealth, not himself, that interests her. She recalls his "white shirt front" pressed against her arm. She tells him she is going to call the police, but he knows she is lying. Myrtle describes being so excited when she gets into the taxi with him that she hardly knows it's not a "subway train." She tells Nick that she kept thinking, "You can't live forever, you can't live forever."

The entire passage suggests that Myrtle saw a rich man and a chance through him at some better times than those offered by her grubby existence with George at the garage in the Valley of the Ashes. She grabbed it, recognizing that such chances don't come too often and that she better take what was on offer. Her "you can't live forever" is a more prosaic version of the "carpe diem" or "seize the day" school of thought popular amongst seventeenth-century poets which said you should seize love (or sex) when you can because you never know when you will die. In Myrtle's case, "you can't live forever" functions as foreshadowing: the woman does not have long to live, and, in fact, her carpe diem philosophy leads to her death.

mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Myrtle is a woman who is looking for a way to improve her situation. She wants to move up in the society circle. She is married to George, but she knows he will never be able to give her the life she wants. While she is on the train into the city to see her sister one day, she spots Tom. The two are instantly attracted to each other and from that moment on they become lovers.

Myrtle sees Tom as her way to increase her standing. Tom only sees her as an object that he wants. Tom isn't going to leave Daisy for Myrtle. Myrtle is not the type of woman Tom would ever be with in the society circles, he only uses her for his own pleasure. Myrtle actually thinks that Tom loves her and believes that he will be with her one day. Neither Tom or Myrtle think about the consequences their affair will have, not only on the other people in their lives, but to themselves, as well. Myrtle is an opportunistic woman who goes after what she wants. In all seriousness, Tom and Myrtle are a lot alike. They both care about how society sees them, and they want to have the best. The two of them are actually perfect for one another, but Tom's marriage to Daisy has solidified his place in society and he will do nothing to jeopardize that. He thinks that he can keep his affair quiet and no one will ever find out about it.

If you look deeper at the character of Myrtle, one might feel sorry for her. She thinks that Tom loves her, when in fact he could care less about her. Myrtle is an unhappy woman, married to a man she doesn't love and with Tom, she gets a taste of the life she wants. She has no idea of how badly and deadly this infatuation will be for her.

hbrown-phs's profile pic

hbrown-phs | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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They met on the train to New York one day.  Myrtle was going to visit her sister; they kept looking at each other across the train car, and before Myrtle knew it, Tom was right next to her when they got off the train

koripeich's profile pic

koripeich | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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They met on the train while Myrtle was going to visit her sister.  They were infatuated with each other from that moment on.

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