In The Great Gatsby, what reason does Myrtle give for marrying George Wilson?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter Two of The Great Gatsby, Nick accompanies Tom Buchanan through the Valley of Ashes where Tom arranges a rendez-vous with his mistress Myrtle Wilson, who is married to George Wilson, an ashen man, blonde and spiritless in contrast to the "perceptible vitality" of Myrtle.  Later, in the New York hotel room where Mrytle changes her dress and feigns social position and wealth, she overhears Nick ask if she does not like Mr. Wilson.  Mrytle unleashes a violent and obscene remark.

As the conversation continues, it becomes apparent that Mrytle is not the only one who puts on airs. Her sister Catherine speaks of going to Monte Carlo with twelve hundred dollars and how she almost married a "little kyke" who was "below" her. After this remark, Mrytle nods her head in agreement,

"At least you didn't marry him....Well, I married him...And that's the difference between your case and mine."

Catherine asks her why she married George Wilson:

"I married him because I thought he was a gentleman...I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe."

After they were married, Mrytle learned that George had even borrowed the suit he wore in their wedding; the man that she had hoped had money had none. This episode in Fitzgerald's narrative exemplifies the perversion of the American Dream to one of the desire for materialism as a false value.

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poetrymfa's profile pic

poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The reason that Myrtle Wilson married her husband George Wilson is quite simple: because she thought he was a "gentleman." This revelation is made in the second chapter of the book, when Myrtle drunkenly tells her guests at a hotel in New York that she believed George "knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick [her] shoe." 

This, however, isn't the story that Catherine, Myrtle's sister, tells; she claims that Myrtle had been "crazy" about George. Regardless of the reason behind this coupling, it's clear that the reality of Myrtle and George's home life--and their socioeconomic status--has dissolved any affection Myrtle may have felt for the man. She sees George as beneath her, which conveniently allows her to justify her adulterous relationship with Tom Buchanan--a man who truly does have great wealth, status, and breeding (though few of the qualities that really matter).