In The Great Gatsby, compare and contrast the characters of Daisy and Myrtle Wilson.

In The Great Gatsby, Myrtle and Daisy are both unhappy in marriage, and each conducts an extramarital affair in order to deal with the misery of their daily lives. Myrtle, a poor man's wife, is killed as a result of her affair, while Daisy, a rich man's wife, walks away unscathed from hers. It is the man with whom she's had the affair, Gatsby, who pays the price for it. Daisy's class privilege gives her every advantage over Myrtle.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson are both unhappily married women, who carry on affairs with other men without any regard or concern for their partners. Both characters are ambitious, selfish women, who are primarily concerned with their personal happiness and social status. Daisy and Myrtle are both romantically connected to Tom Buchanan and have a significant influence on his life.

While Tom loves Daisy and even has a child with her, he is attracted and attached to Myrtle. Daisy and Myrtle's husbands both fear losing them and are willing to go to great lengths to preserve their marriages. Tom even has a private investigator discover the truth about Gatsby while George Wilson plans on moving out west when he learns about Myrtle's affair.

The main difference between both characters concerns their social status and privilege. Daisy Buchanan hails from an affluent, upper-class family and enjoys a carefree, lavish lifestyle in the East Egg, where she lives with her callous, domineering husband. She is established, resides in a massive estate, and has a child with Tom. In contrast, Myrtle Wilson married a lowly, poor man and lives a depressing life in the valley of ashes.

Both characters also have different motivations in the story. Daisy is focused on maintaining her social status and remaining financially secure. Despite her feelings for Gatsby, Daisy chooses to stay with Tom because she values her material wealth and status over love and affection. In contrast, Myrtle is focused on climbing the social ladder and becoming a member of the upper-class. Unlike Daisy, Myrtle is determined to leave her husband and dramatically alter her lifestyle. Daisy and Myrtle also have different mannerisms. Daisy is known for her attractive voice, bright eyes, and "passionate mouth," while Myrtle has a "perceptible vitality about her" and carries herself sensuously.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Myrtle lives in the valley of ashes with her working-class husband, George Wilson, a man who owns a struggling garage and gas station. She despises her husband for being so "common," and she is conducting an affair with Tom Buchanan, a frequent customer at Wilson's garage, in an effort, it seems, to climb the social ladder.

Daisy, on the other hand, lives in one of the "white palaces" of fashionable and sophisticated East Egg with Tom, her husband. They both come from "old money" and have inherited their wealth from their families rather than having to work for it. She, in many ways, despises her husband, as Myrtle does hers, though for different reasons.

Tom is a terrible racist who is paranoid about losing his power and privilege as a white man to other races, which he imagines are about to "rise up" and overwhelm white people. He is also physically abusive to women—perhaps even to Daisy as well—and cheats on Daisy frequently with a string of other women that stretches back to their honeymoon. Daisy finds him infuriating at times and ridiculous, too.

Both women, then, are unhappy in their marriages and have affairs in order to escape the misery of their daily lives. Neither one, despite their vast differences in wealth and privilege, is happy. However, when Myrtle, a poor man's wife, seeks to change her life by loving another man, she is killed. When Daisy, a rich man's wife, seeks to improve her life by loving another man, she walks away scot-free, while Gatsby is murdered as a result of other people's actions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When comparing and contrasting Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson it is important to look at all aspects of the characters. Physically, they are quite different. Daisy is referred to as light and glamorous, while Myrtle is characterized as overweight and gaudy in appearance. By demonstrating their distinct physical differences, Fitzgerald allows us to play favorites with Daisy, even though the two women do share a number of similarities in terms of their actual lives. Both women carry on affairs, and are desperately unhappy with their personal lives. Tom Buchanan also abuses both women in one way or another. The women's standing in society are also vastly different. Myrtle's husband runs an automotive repair shop and station, while Tom is a trust fund baby. He comes from great wealth and a high class family, which is alluring to both Myrtle and Daisy. There are many more similarities and differences, but this is certainly a good start.   

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This question has been answered many times.  Here is a comprehensive link for you: http://www.enotes.com/great-gatsby/search?q=compare+daisy+and+myrtle

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial