Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:00 Introducing Myrtle Wilson
  • 0:51 The 'Real' Myrtle Wilson
  • 1:48 Myrtle's Dream Life
  • 3:36 Myrtle's Sad Ending
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

In this lesson, you'll learn about Myrtle Wilson from F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.' Myrtle is a character who desperately desires to be a part of the wealthy social class and lives two lives in an attempt to fulfill the fantasy.

Introducing Myrtle Wilson

We all know the type: the guy who tries to impress others with academic words he doesn't really understand; the woman who eats healthy, organic meals in public but downs frozen fish sticks and Diet Coke in the privacy of her own home. Some people desperately attempt to be something they are not.

Myrtle Wilson is one such person. Through her involvement with the wealthy (and married) Tom Buchanan, she is able to play the role of a wealthy woman even though her real life is in no way privileged.

The reader first learns of Myrtle Wilson in the opening chapter of The Great Gatsby. Tom and Daisy Buchanan are eating dinner with Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker. When Tom receives an untimely phone call during dinner, Jordan explains to Nick, 'Tom's got some woman in New York.' She is surprised that Nick is not already aware of this widely-known piece of gossip.

The 'Real' Myrtle Wilson

Physically, Myrtle Wilson is not an impressive person. She is a rather plain, full-figured woman, described as in the middle thirties, and fairly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can and her face contained 'no facet or gleam of beauty.' Still, Nick notes, 'there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smoldering.'

Myrtle is the wife of George Wilson, a mechanic and used car salesman who lacks the wealth and status she thinks she deserves. The couple lives in an apartment adjoining George's garage. 'Repairs. George B. Wilson. Cars Bought and Sold,' reads the sign outside their home. George gets no respect from his wife. Near the end of the story, when he finds out about his wife's ongoing infidelity, he gets upset and locks her in their apartment. Myrtle does not care what he thinks, as her response clearly illustrates: 'Beat me! Throw me down and beat me you dirty little coward!'

Myrtle's Dream Life

Myrtle's fantasy life centers on her relationship with Tom Buchanan, a relationship that Tom seems to control. One day, without notice, Tom drops by the Wilsons' home to see Myrtle. After making small talk, he gets to the point: 'I want to see you. Get on the next train.' Myrtle wastes no time following his instructions.

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