What do George Wilson's interactions with Tom reveal about him in The Great Gatsby?    

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilson allows Tom Buchanan to bully him. His poverty makes him lose all self-respect and bow to Tom's supercilious and patronizing attitude. He is clearly reliant on the arrogant Buchanan for small favors, as is so pertinently illustrated in the following extract:

“Hello, Wilson, old man,” said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder. “How’s business?”

“I can’t complain,” answered Wilson unconvincingly. “When are you going to sell me that car?”

“Next week; I’ve got my man working on it now.”

“Works pretty slow, don’t he?”

“No, he doesn’t,” said Tom coldly. “And if you feel that way about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.”

“I don’t mean that,” explained Wilson quickly. “I just meant—”

And later, in chapter 7, Tom is clearly bullying him:

“Let’s have some gas!” cried Tom roughly. “What do you think we stopped for—to admire the view?”

Wilson's quick apology in the extract indicates how desperate he is and how much he is prepared to sacrifice his own dignity to ensure that he does not lose whatever benefit (in material terms) Tom can provide. It is truly ironic that George does not realize that Tom is playing him for a fool in more ways than one. He is not only holding him on the line about selling his car but is also involved in an extramarital affair with his wife, Myrtle.

When Myrtle is accidentally killed by Daisy as she drives Jay Gatsby's car, it is Tom who later convinces George that Jay was the one she had been involved with. The distraught Wilson sees Tom as some kind of a savior in this instance, for he allows him to vent his grief and find closure by avenging his wife's death and killing the one, he believes, is his wife's murderer. 

George Wilson was clearly overwhelmed by his circumstances and constantly found himself in desperate situations. Tom's wealth offered him at least some hope. If Tom could help him, he could go West as he and Myrtle had discussed. It is ironic that he shares this information with the very man who would not want to see Myrtle leave: Tom Buchanan, her lover. Furthermore, Tom is also the man indirectly responsible for George's poor health because when he discovered that Myrtle "had some sort of life apart from him in another world," he became physically ill.

In the end, Tom remorselessly implicates Jay in Myrtle's death and is, therefore, directly responsible for his murder by George. Later, in chapter 9, he tells Nick about having spoken to George:

“What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s, but he was a tough one. He ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car.” 

Tom had found a way to rid himself of Jay and the embarrassment and complication of living with an unfaithful wife who, for all intents and purposes, might still have continued her illicit affair with Jay Gatsby if he had remained alive. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During their interactions, George Wilson affords the wealthy Buchanan credibility because of his socio-economic position, believing Tom to be superior to him. Because he is deluded about his wife Myrtle, Wilson never suspects Tom of being her lover.

Much like Gatsby, George Wilson is a dreamer who unrealistically affords people virtues they do not possess. Certainly, he puts more faith in his wife than he should, and he cowers to Tom Buchanan. For instance, he asks Tom when he is going to sell him a car promised him, not realizing that Buchanan uses this promise merely as a pretense to come by and let his mistress, George's wife Myrtle, know that he is going to New York City so she can meet him.  

"Hello, Wilson, old man," said Tom.... "How's business?"
"I can't complain," answered Wilson unconvincingly. "When are you going to sell me that car?"
"Next week; I've got my man working on it now."
"Works pretty slow, don't he?"
"No, he doesn't," said Tom coldly. "And if you feel that way about it maybe I'd better sell it somewhere else after all."

Clearly, George Wilson is a weak, submissive man who is defeated by his poverty and lack of success. He places hope in the wealthy Tom, believing that his association with Buchanan will somehow help him break from his life in the Valley of Ashes.


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The Great Gatsby

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