The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What aspects and attitude of Myrtle are addressed in this passage from chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby?  She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice: "Get some chairs, why don’t you, so somebody can sit down."

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This passage appears in chapter 2 of the novel, during which Tom Buchanan travels to the city with Nick Carraway, who thinks they are going to have lunch at the Yale Club. Instead, Tom takes Nick to an apartment in the city he has rented for his mistress, Myrtle Wilson.

This quote describes Nick’s first impression of Myrtle when he meets her at Wilson’s garage in the Valley of Ashes. Myrtle is described as walking “through” George Wilson as if he is a “ghost.” This suggests that she dominates her husband, treating him as if he is not present. In addition, one could argue that it shows Myrtle’s tendency to overlook her husband. Furthermore, it indicates that George is a passive person.

The “slow” smile Myrtle creates also hints at her feelings toward Tom. Although she is excited to see her lover, she has to conceal this emotion from her husband.

Other details in the passage indicate the sexual nature of Myrtle and Tom’s relationship. By saying that she looks Tom “flush in the eye,” Nick suggests that Myrtle is bold and leering. The detail of Myrtle licking her lips before speaking is also sexually suggestive, indicating to the reader what kind of connection Myrtle and Tom have.

The fact that Myrtle does not even look at her husband when she asks him to get some chairs indicates that she is totally focused on Tom. At the same time, this suggests her lack of respect for George, since she expects him to comply with her demands rather than to answer her requests. Even the use of the word “coarse” to describe her tone reveals her thinly-veiled contempt for her husband. She treats George as an inconvenience, a non-entity, or a servant, all of which underscore the dynamic of their marriage.

At the same time, her warm, sensual treatment of Tom highlights her feelings for him. While she views her husband’s presence in the scene as inconvenient, Myrtle is aroused by the presence of her lover.

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