How did Tom victimize George in The Great Gatsby?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Buchanan victimized the lowly George Wilson in several significant ways that eventually motivated George to commit suicide. Tom Buchanan is portrayed as a callous, extremely wealthy man, who discriminates against George and takes advantage of him because he is poor, meek, and cannot defend himself. Tom victimizes George by carrying on an affair with his wife, Myrtle, behind his back. To make matters worse, Tom lies to George about selling him a car but purposely delays the sale in order to continually visit his home, where he can keep in contact with Myrtle. In addition to having an affair with his wife and blatantly lying to George about an important business transaction, Tom also victimizes George by blaming Gatsby for his wife's death. Tom detests Jay Gatsby and resents him for sleeping with Daisy. By telling George that Gatsby was responsible for his wife's death, George not only murders the man Tom hates but also commits suicide after killing Gatsby. Overall, Tom victimized George by cheating on his wife, lying about a business transaction, and telling him that Gatsby is responsible for his wife's death.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First of all, Tom was sleeping with George's wife, Myrtle. This was as much Myrtle's fault as it was Tom's but we can say that by sleeping with his wife, Tom was hurting George and Myrtle's marriage. Faced with a failing business and a cheating wife, who no longer had any respect for him, George's misery partly had to do with the affair between Myrtle and Tom. 

Tom is also subtly condescending towards George; note in Chapter 2 how Tom promises to sell George a car but keeps delaying the sale, saying he'll go elsewhere if George complains. 

Perhaps the most dramatic instance when Tom victimizes George is when Tom tells George that Gatsby is the one who killed Myrtle with the car. (This is untrue; Daisy was driving.) In the final chapter, Nick confronts Tom, asking him if he blamed the accident on Gatsby. Tom replies: 

"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 told George that Gatsby was responsible for Myrtle's death. (George had already suspected Myrtle was having an affair and may have also concluded that Gatsby was the man she was having the affair with.) When Tom blamed Gatsby, this leads George to confront Gatsby and kill him, then to turn the gun on himself. Again, Tom plays a direct role in George's misfortune. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial