According to Catherine (Myrtle's sister) in The Great Gatsby, why has Tom not left Daisy to marry Myrtle?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author uses a bit of dialogue between Nick and Myrtle Wilson's sister Catherine to characterize Tom Buchanan.

"You see," cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her voice again. "It's really his wife that's keeping them apart. She's a Catholic, and they don't believe in divorce."

Nick comments to the reader:

Daisy was not a Catholic, and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie.

It is characteristic of Nick that he listens and observes but seldom contradicts people or offers information. He is a little shocked because the elaborateness of the lie suggests that Tom has invented it and improved on it over a period of time. Tom has had other affairs and has undoubtedly used the same story on his other mistresses. We know that Tom is just using Myrtle and would never consider marrying her. She belongs to a social class he despises. Tom is a "user." He is using both Myrtle and her husband. What is happening at this rather sordid party in the small apartment is that Tom is slumming. He belongs to the upper class, but he has lower-class tastes. Evidently he feels comfortable with people like Myrtle and her sister and their friends. But he is also a snob. He knows that Daisy is infinitely superior to Myrtle in every respect. That is why he evidently has told Myrtle that he doesn't want her to mention Daisy's name. Tom can cheat on his wife while still respecting her.

Myrtle is being deluded. She thinks there is a chance that she can somehow build a strong enough relationship with Tom to get him to divorce Daisy and allow her to marry into riches. She would gladly dump her poor husband if she had any chance to better herself. It seems inevitable that Tom will get tired of her, as he has with other women in the past, and will terminate the affair, probably unceremoniously and with a cash payoff. Tom's selfish, brutal character is reflected in his choice of a mistress. The fact that he ends up breaking her nose is a good indication of his contempt for her.

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Nick is at a party in New York City, he meets Catherine, Myrtle's sister. Myrtle and Tom are having a small get together at their apartment in the city. Myrtle invites her sister and Catherine and Nick start a conversation. Catherine is looking at Tom and Myrtle and tells Nick that they should be together and that when they do get together they are going to move out west until it all passes over. Nick is intrigued as to why Catherine thinks that Tom will marry Myrtle, when Tom is married to Daisy. Catherine tells Nick that Tom is still married to Daisy because of her religious beliefs.

"You see," cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her voice again. "It's really his wife that's keeping them apart. She's a Catholic, and they don't believe in divorce."

Nick knows good and well that Daisy is not Catholic, and that Tom is not going to leave Daisy. Tom is just using Myrtle. Myrtle considers herself in love with Tom, but in all reality she is just using Tom, as well. Myrtle wants to move up the social ladder, and thinks that Tom is the answer to do this, but Tom is never going to leave Daisy. Although Tom is cheating on her, he will never risk his reputation or what he has and leave Daisy for Myrtle.

may-stone eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 2, Nick relates a party that Tom organizes in a city hotel room with his mistress Myrtle and Myrtle's sister Catherine, among a select group.  Over cocktails, Catherine gossips about her sister's affair to Nick while Tom and Myrtle are nearby.  Catherine tells Nick that neither Tom nor Myrtle can stand the person that each is married to (Daisy and Wilson, respectively), and that she believes they should stop making themselves miserable by staying with their spouses.  Catherine says, “It’s really his wife [Daisy] that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic, and they don’t believe in divorce.”  

However, Nick knows that Daisy is not Catholic, and he relates that he is "shocked" to hear this because he knows it's a lie.  The implication is that Tom has made up a story about why he cannot conveniently leave Daisy for Myrtle's benefit, who passed it on to Catherine, who gossips it to Nick in this scene.  So despite Catherine's instance that both Tom and Myrtle are miserable with their spouses, Tom at least is not really interested in leaving his wife.

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The Great Gatsby

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