Describe Mr.Wilson and his wife Myrtle in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, George and Myrtle Wilson are the most significant non-rich characters. They live in what is known as the Valley of Ashes above the automobile repair shop which is Wilson's profession. Unfortunately, business is not good; so the shop, "unprosperous and bare," is not in any better condition than the Wilsons themselves.

George Wilson is  most notable for being nondescript. He is first described as 

a blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome.

Even his handsomeness is barely discernible. When he leaves the room he  

mingl[ed] immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity-except his wife.

George is almost a non-entity because he blends into the ashen-ness of his surroundings. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about him and it would be easy to forget he even exists--which is how Myrtle treats him most of the time. 

Myrtle, on the other hand, is vibrant in a rather overdone and garish way. She is described as having a "thickish figure" and, unlike her husband, makes an unavoidable impression when she enters a room. 

She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crépe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.

Later Nick learns from Myrtle that she married George because he had a suit; while that is a pretty low standard by which to judge a person's financial status and stability, it reveals Myrtle's desire to have money and things (as well as her own level of poverty at the time). This is, of course, why she becomes Tom Buchanan's lover (though Tom certainly does not choose her for money or class).

Myrtle has very little "class" and is willing to take whatever abuse Tom gives her (including a punch in the nose) just to maintain her rather crass second life. 

Myrtle is described as "walking through her husband as if he were a ghost," and Tom says George is "so dumb he doesn't know he's alive." George is a passive and rather apathetic, but he loves his wife. When he finally discovers that Myrtle has been having an affair (something Myrtle barely tried to hide from him), he is desperate to get enough money to take her away. Myrtle, on the other hand, is desperate enough to be with Tom (and desperate enough not to be with her husband) that she runs in front of an oncoming car.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question