Compare George Wilson and Tom. What did each man learn about his wife, and how did they each react?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George Wilson is a pitiful character who evokes much sympathy. He is obviously desperate to make his wife happy, but unfortunately lacks the means to do so. He clearly loves Myrtle but has been unable to afford her the life she so much desires - a life of comfort and wealth. They live in poverty in The Valley of Ashes, surrounded by grey, grimy decay - all symbolic of their miserable existence.

When George suspects that Myrtle is having an affair, he decides to hole her up in the room above the garage. His discovery, “I just got wised up to something funny the last two days,” has made him physically ill and he has decided that he and Myrtle would be moving West, "whether she wants to or not." He obviously believes that this would put an end to his wife's affair.

Tom Buchanan, on the other hand, is exceedingly rich. He is conceited and spoilt by wealth. His haughtiness makes him boorish and racist. He believes that women are mere playthings and he continuously indulges in extra-marital liaisons. When he discovers that Daisy is involved in an affair with Jay Gatsby, he is shocked:

"She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded. His mouth opened a little, and he looked at Gatsby, and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as some one he knew a long time ago."

Tom later confronts Jay about the affair and reminds Daisy about some of the tender moments they had shared on their honeymoon and other occasions. The altercation between Tom and Jay frightens Daisy until she eventually relents and declares to Jay:

"Oh, you want too much!”

These words spawn the unravelling of all that Jay had planned for himself and Daisy and gives Tom the upper hand, so much so that he later confidently instructs his wife:

“You two start on home, Daisy,” “In Mr. Gatsby’s car.” 

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom and George each discover in different ways that their wives are having affairs. Tom is violently angry at Gatsby for trying to take his wife away from him. He senses he is losing control of something that belongs to him. With Daisy, Tom is gentle. He tries to woo her back by reminding her of their honeymoon and assurring her that he has always loved her, no matter how foolish his behavior has been in the past. (He refers to his own marital infidelity. He had never been faithful to Daisy.)

When George learns of Myrtle's affair, he is heartbroken that she would be unfaithful to him and deceive him in the process. He thinks that Myrtle's conduct is immoral. He wants to take her away in order to break up her affair and save his marriage. He thinks everything will be fine if he can only leave with her. He locks her up to keep her from running away from him, which leads to her death when she does run and is hit and killed by Gatsby's car.

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The Great Gatsby

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