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Book Guides. In most books and movies, the "other woman"—the woman having an affair with a married man—is often painted as a villain. Especially given that one Daisy ends up killing the other Myrtleis Myrtle just a one-note "other woman," or is there more to her?
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Myrtle's role in the story isn't as large as Daisy's, Gatsby's, or Tom's. However, she is crucial to the plot of the story, and especially to its tragic conclusion.
Find out more about Myrtle's role in Gatsby in this guide! Our citation format in this guide is chapter. We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using s would only work for students with our copy of the book.
To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it Paragraph beginning of chapter; middle of chapter; on: end of chapteror use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.
Then I heard footsteps on the stairs and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can.
Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Unlike Nick's description of Daisy, which focuses on her voice, mannerisms, and charm, and unlike his description of Jordan, which focuses on her posture and athleticism, Nick's description of Myrtle focuses almost entirely on her body itself.
The great gatsby
Perhaps this fits with her role as Tom's mistress, but it also indicates Nick sees little in Myrtle in terms of intellect or personality. This description also speaks to the strong physical attraction between Tom and Myrtle that undergirds their affair. This attraction serves as a foil to the more deep-seated emotional attraction between Gatsby and Daisy, the novel's central affair.
We don't know a ton about Myrtle Wilson's background except what we can gather from the passing comments from other characters. For example, we get the sense Myrtle loved for husband when they got married, but has since been disappointed by his lack of cash and social status, and now feels stifled by her twelve-year marriage:. I never was any more crazy about him than I was about that man there. She pointed suddenly at me, and every one looked at me accusingly. I tried to show by my expression that I had played no part in her past.
I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody's best suit to get married in and never even told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out. She looked around to see who was listening: " 'Oh, is that your suit? And Tom's the first sweetie she ever had. She begins her affair with Tom Buchanan after he sees her on girl train and later presses against her in the station:. I was going up to New York looking see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes and I couldn't keep my eyes off him but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head.
When we came into the station he was next to me and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm--and so I told him I'd have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn't hardly know I wasn't getting into a subway train" 2.
Myrtle desperately wants to come off as sophisticated and wealthy despite her humble roots. Nick finds her efforts tacky and vulgar, and he spends a lot of time commenting on her clothes, mannerisms, and conversational style. She is oblivious about upper-class Myrtle she tells her sister at one point Tom doesn't divorce Daisy because Daisy is Catholic. That Myrtle thinks accepts Tom's lie shows that she is not a well-schooled as she thinks she is about the life and customs of the elite class she wants to be a part of.
Still, before the novel begins, Tom has gotten comfortable showing Myrtle around in popular restaurants and doesn't hide the affair. Perhaps this causes Myrtle to misunderstand what she means to Tom: she doesn't seem to realize she's just one in a string of mistresses. Looking see Myrtle's life events alongside those of the other characters, check out our timeline of The Great Gatsby. One of the single most important parts of your college application is what classes you choose take in high school in conjunction with how well you do in those classes.
Our team of PrepScholar admissions experts have compiled their knowledge into girl single guide to planning out your high school course schedule. The idea Myrtle Myrtle Wilson is introduced in Chapter 1when she calls the Buchanans' house to speak to Tom.
We get for first look at Myrtle in Chapter 2when Nick goes with Tom to George Wilson's garage to meet her, and then to Myrtle's apartment in Manhattan for a party. On that day, she buys a dog, has sex with Tom with Nick in the next roomthrows a party, and is fawned on by her friends, and then ends up with a broken nose when Tom punches her after she brings up Daisy.
This doesn't prevent her from continuing the affair.
Later on, in Chapter 7George starts to suspect she's having an affair when he finds her dog's leash in a drawer at the house. He locks her upstairs in their house, determined to move out west once he gets the money from the car sale he's waiting on from Tom.
Myrtle glimpses Tom, along with Nick and Jordan, as they drive up to Manhattan in Gatsby's yellow car. Myrtle and George fight later that evening, and Myrtle manages to run out of the house after yelling at George to beat her and calling him a coward.
Just then, she spots the yellow car heading back for Long Island. Thinking it's Tom, she runs toward and then out in front of the car, waving her arms. But Daisy is driving the car, and she decides to run over Myrtle rather than get into a head-on collision with an oncoming car. She hits Myrtle, who dies instantly. Myrtle's death emotionally and mentally devastates George, which prompts him to murder Gatsby who he mistakes for both his wife's killer and loverand then kill himself.
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The death car. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon, which gave out a continual rustle as she swept about the room. With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.
Here, we see Myrtle transformed from her more sensuous, physical persona into that of someone desperate to come off as richer than she actually is.
Wielding power over her group of friends, she seems to revel in her own image. Unlike Gatsby, who projects an elaborately rich and worldly character, Myrtle's persona is much more simplistic and transparent. Notably Tom, who immediately sees Gatsby as a fake, doesn't seem to mind Myrtle's pretensions—perhaps because they are of no consequence to him, or any kind of a threat to his lifestyle. Here we see Myrtle pushing her limits with Tom—and realizing that he is both violent and completely unwilling to be honest about his marriage.
While both characters are willful, impulsive, and driven by their desires, Tom is violently asserting here that his needs are more Myrtle than Myrtle's. After all, to Tom, Myrtle is just another mistress, and just as disposable as all the rest. Also, this injury foreshadows Myrtle's death at the hands of Daisy, herself. While invoking Daisy's name here causes Tom to hurt Myrtle, Myrtle's actual encounter with Daisy later in the novel turns out to be deadly. When George confronts his wife about her affair, Myrtle is furious and needles for her husband—already insecure since girl been cheated on—by insinuating he's weak and less of a man than Tom.
Also, their fight centers around her body and its treatment, while Tom and Daisy fought earlier in the same chapter looking their feelings. In this moment, we see that despite how dangerous and damaging Myrtle's relationship with Tom is, she seems to be asking George to treat her in the same way that Tom has been doing. Myrtle's disturbing acceptance of her role as a just a body—a piece of meat, basically—foreshadows the gruesome physicality of her death.
Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn open her shirtwaist still damp with perspiration, they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath.
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The mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored so long. Even in death, Myrtle's physicality and vitality are emphasized. In fact, the image is pretty overtly sexual—notice how looking Myrtle's breast that's torn open and for loose, and her mouth ripped open at the corners. This echoes Nick's view of Myrtle as a woman and mistress, nothing more—even in death she's objectified.
This moment is also girl more violent than her earlier broken nose. While that moment cemented Tom as abusive in the eyes of the reader, this one truly shows the damage that Tom and Daisy leave in their wake, and shapes the tragic tone of the rest of the novel. The graphic and bloody nature of Myrtle's death really sticks with you. You will most likely be asked to write about Myrtle in relation to other characters especially Daisyor in prompts that ask you to compare the "strivers" in the book including also Gatsby, George Wilson with the old money Myrtle Tom, Daisy, Jordan.
To learn how best to approach this kind of compare and contrast essay, read our article on common character pairings and how to analyze them.
In either case, Myrtle's most important chapters are 2 and 7so close read those carefully. When writing about her, pay close attention to Myrtle's interactions with other characters.
And if you're writing an essay that discusses Myrtle as someone trying to live out the American Dream, make sure to address her larger influences and motivations. We'll take a look at some of these strategies in action below. For readers new to Gatsby, Tom and Myrtle's relationship can seem a bit odd. There is obvious physical chemistry, but it can be hard to see why the classist, misogynist Tom puts up with Myrtle—or why Myrtle accepts Tom's mistreatment.
For Tom, the affair—just one in a string he's had since his honeymoon—is about taking and being able to get whatever he wants. Having an affair is a show of power.
Especially since he's been taking her around popular restaurants in Manhattan 2. He's so assured of his place in society as a wealthy man, that he's free to engage in some risky and socially inappropriate behavior—because he knows no one can actually touch his wealth or social position.
For Myrtle, the affair her first is about escape from her life with George, and a taste of a world—Manhattan, money, nice things—she wouldn't otherwise have access to. It's clear from how Myrtle moves and speaks that she's confident and self-assured, and assumes that her relationship with Tom is a permanent ticket into the world of the wealthy—not just a fleeting glimpse.
The fact that Tom sees Myrtle as disposable but Myrtle hopes for more in their relationship is painfully apparent at the end of Chapter 2when she insists on bringing up Daisy, and Tom responds by breaking Myrtle's nose.