The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What kind of person is Michaelis in The Great Gatsby?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Michaelis seems like a decent guy but a rather disinterested neighbor, for the most part. Before the accident but after George Wilson has learned of his wife's infidelity, Michaelis advises Wilson to go to bed because the man looks so ill. When Wilson admits that he has his wife "locked up" inside their apartment, Michaelis is shocked but does nothing about it. He is "astonished" because Wilson seems like he is "his wife's man and not his own," and it seems that he wouldn't be capable of acting against her.

When Wilson begins to suspect that his wife had been unfaithful with Michaelis, the young Greek "took the opportunity to get away, intending to come back later. But he didn't. He supposed he forgot to, that's all." Perhaps he feels guilty for this forgetfulness later, and this could be why he sits up with Wilson "until dawn."

Michaelis tried to "distract" Wilson, asking him questions about his marriage, any religious affiliations, and so on. Ultimately, Michaelis believes that Myrtle Wilson was killed in an accident because she was running away from her husband. Maybe he feels that if he'd have intervened when Wilson told him that she was locked up, she would not have run away. I think it's more likely that Michaelis attempts to help for this reason, rather than because he is such a nice person—wouldn't a person who truly desires to be good have tried to help sooner?

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The fact that Michaelis is willing to sit up with George Wilson after the tragedy of his wife's death shows that he is kind and compassionate. He tries to distract George from dwelling on what had happened to Myrtle and his despair by asking questions and trying to keep up a conversation with him. He tries to work out if there is a priest that could come and counsel George in his time of need, and when George shows him the diamond-studded dog collar and shares the conclusions that he has made in his mind, he tries to tell Michaelis that he is being morbid:

"You're morbid, George... This has been a strain to you and you don't know what you're saying. You'd better try and sit quiet till morning."

Michaelis, by the very act of staying with George until six in the morning, is obviously a kind, caring individual, and the way that he looks after George and tries to offer him advice and to take his attention away from what George thinks happened really shows he has his friend's best intentions at heart.

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