Explain how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the minor characters--Owl Eyes, Mr. Wolfshiem, Pammy, Michaelis, and George Wilson in the novel.What does each character add to the story?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Minor characters in a narrative are never introduced without good reason:  often they introduce new information essential to the plot, and they reveal can reveal the true nature of main characters.

  • Owl-Eyes, is the manifestation of the ocular imagery in the novel, such as the billboard in The Valley of Ashes of the glasses with a nose that witnesses the death of Myrtle Wilson.  It is Owl Eyes who discovers that the leather bound volumes in Gatsby are genuine.  But like the uncut pages, Gatsby, too, is unrefined and inexperienced in the world of the wealthy.  And, it is Owl Eyes who realizes that all the guests and friends of Gatsby were not real:  "The poor bastard," he remarks at the funeral when none of these people attend.
  • Mr. Wolfscheim, whose name is German Jewish, is a dangerous and evil man.  Like a wolf and usuer, he devours people figuratively, having them killed or using them for his criminal purposes.  His presence destroys the legitimacy of Gatsby's wealth and position.  Nevertheless, he separates Gatsby from the world of subhuman criminals who wear molars for cufflinks.
  • Michaelis, the coffee store owner who lives by George Wilson, is a witness to Gatsby's car striking and killing Myrtle Wilson, providing the documentation of the murder.
  • George Wilson represents the poor man who cannot come out of his poverty just as Gatsby cannot emerge totally from his beginnings.  He is sickly and pitiful, working in The Valley of Ashes, subjected to the refuse of the rich, to whom he even loses his wife.  Enraged in his frustrations with life, Wilson, who himself is a victim, makes Gatsby also a victim of the wealthy when he kills him in retaliation for the loss of his wife.  There are parallels between Wilson and Gatsby which illuminate the character of Jay Gatsby for the reader.
  • Pammy, whose name is even frivolous, is the child of Daisy, whom she prayed would be "a beautifu little fool."  When Pammy asks where her father is, Daisy ignores her question and talks about how beautiful the child is, thus mirroring her own self-image in her daughter.
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • Well, for Owl Eyes, you can't do better than Enotes' characterization:

This minor character illuminates the character of Jay Gatsby. He finds that the books in Gatsby's library are real, even though the pages are uncut. Like the books, Gatsby is the real thing, but unformed, unlettered, and for all his financial cunning, ignorant.

Furthermore, the ocular imagery in the book is enhanced by this character's role since various acquaintances of the mysterious Gatsby lend their truth to his real story.

  • The rest of the minor characters do the same: Wolfsheim illuminates Gatsby as a criminal (the human molar imagery reveals cruelty as fashionable).
  • Pammy illuminates Daisy as a "hopeless little fool," a terrible mother, and a temptress.  Like Pammy, Daisy is dressed in white--a symbol of marriage, purity and maidenhood (all of which are false).
  • Michaelis illuminates the Wilsons' sordid marriage.  He is the chief witness in the murder.  He serves as Fitzgerald's reporter of the details of the crime.
  • Wilson is the most important minor character.  He is a cuckold: a man whose woman lays her eggs in another man's nest.  He is sexually wounded and out for revenge.
  • He is a victim of class warfare waged by Tom, who refuses to sell him a car.  He is stuck in the Valley of Ashes, where there is no American Dream.  As such, he resorts to murder and suicide (self-destruction) because of his lack of upward mobility.  As Myrtle says, "He's not fit to lick my shoe."
  • He is foil for Tom, Nick, and Gatsby.  Like Nick, he is deceived by Gatsby.  Whereas Nick thinks the best of Gatsby (he's innocent), Wilson thinks the worst (he's guilty).  As such, he murders him, mistaking him for Myrtle's lover.
Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question