In The Great Gatsby, in what ways does Tom Buchanan lie, deceive or tell only half truths to other characters in the novel and to the reader? What about Myrtle Wilson and George Wilson?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is an example of Tom's deception in Chapter Two when he and Nick are having a party in the New York. According to Catherine, Tom will not file for divorce (and be with Myrtle completely) because Daisy is a Catholic and does not believe in such practices. Nick is shocked by the "elaborateness" of this lie: Daisy is not a Catholic and it is far more likely that Tom simply wants to have both women. In this case, his deception is an expression of his arrogance. Similarly, Myrtle Wilson deceives her husband by having a secret affair with Tom Buchanan. For her, the affair is about improving her status and escaping the confines of the Valley of Ashes.

In contrast, George Wilson does not use deception in the same manner as Tom and Myrtle. As we see in Chapter Eight, George acts as a reminder that lying is not always the right thing to do. This is shown when he reveals to Myrtle that he knows about her affair:

“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window.”

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom deceives Myrtle Wilson about their future. He has no intention of leaving his marriage, and so he tells her that since Daisy is a Catholic, divorce is impossible. Nick informs the reader that his cousin Daisy is, in fact, not Catholic.

Myrtle Wilson deceives her husband by telling him that she is going to New York to visit her sister when in fact it is Tom Buchanan she is going to meet at the uptown apartment he keeps for them.

Myrtle Wilson believes her husband to be deceitful about his social and economic status when she discovers that the suit he'd wore to their wedding was borrowed from someone else. Perhaps this is a lie of omission on the part of George Wilson.

Tom misleads George Wilson in many ways. Tom feigns interest in selling George his car as a way of controlling him and gaining access to Myrtle. Tom misleads George about who has hit and killed Myrtle because he knows that George intends to do harm to that person. And Tom, of course, deceives Daisy over and over with his serial infidelities.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom lies to George in saying that he has a car he wants to sell him, using that as a pretext to call or come to the garage to set up his meetings with Myrtle.

When he stops for gas while driving Gatsby's car into the city, Tom lies and tells George the car is his. This leads George to believe it was Tom who ran over Myrtle without stopping and to go after him with a gun. Tom then leads George to believe it was Gatsby driving the car, when, in fact, he knows it was Daisy. This results in George killing Gatsby. Tom later justifies it to Nick by saying Gatsby had it coming.

Myrtle also lies to George so that she have an affair with Tom, as she wants a share of the good things in life. George is completely a straight arrow who trusts what people tell him.

katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two major examples of Tom outright lying or deceiving people in "The Great Gatsby".  The first is in the beginning of the novel when Tom is having an affair with Myrtle.  While Daisy may suspect or have been told about it by others, Tom has not come out and been truthful with Daisy about his affair or perhaps the reason behind the affair.

Tom also lies out right to George Wilson, saying it was Jay Gatsby who was driving the car that killed Myrtle, and not Daisy.  Though his protection for Daisy, and perhaps Daisy herself, prompted Tom to lie in this way, the lie resulted in Gatsby's death (which may or may not have been Tom's intention in the first place). 

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The Great Gatsby

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