Who Is George Wilson in The Great Gatsby? - Character Analysis

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  • 0:02 Who Is George Wilson?
  • 0:38 Meeting George
  • 2:04 Second Appearance of George
  • 3:39 Analysis
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

George Wilson is a seemingly minor character in 'The Great Gatsby'. Despite his few appearances in the novel, he plays a pretty significant role. This lesson analyzes the character of George Wilson.

Who Is George Wilson?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is filled with numerous characters, both small and large. Off the top of your head, you probably know a good bit about the story's narrator, Nick Carraway, and clearly the title character, Jay Gatsby. But how much do you recall about George Wilson?

George Wilson is the beaten down husband of Myrtle Wilson, the mistress of Tom Buchanan, husband to Daisy Buchanan, love interest of Gatsby. While George Wilson only appears in The Great Gatsby a handful of times, this seemingly minor character has a big impact on the book.

Meeting George

We meet George Wilson in the second chapter of The Great Gatsby. On their way into New York City, Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan stop at Wilson's garage to ask Myrtle to join them. Wilson's first appearance is not an impressionable one. For starters, Wilson owns a gas station and garage in a desolate area between the Eggs and New York City, a place that Nick Carraway describes as a 'valley of ashes'.

Inside the garage, 'The interior was unprosperous and bare,' a quality that's reflected in the owner as well. According to Carraway, 'He [George Wilson] was a blonde, spiritless man, anæmic and faintly handsome.' Wilson is clearly a beaten man, bogged down by his unfortunate financial situation: 'When he saw us [Carraway and Buchanan], a damp gleam of hope sprang into his blue eyes.'

Wilson's physical appearance and general demeanor are further emphasized by both Tom Buchanan and his wife, Myrtle. When Tom Buchanan enters the garage, he takes control of the situation. He's clearly a person in charge, a person with power. Meanwhile, Wilson is unsure of himself and tries to please his guests. While Carraway does not describe Myrtle as beautiful, he does explain to the reader that she moves 'sensuously' and has an air of 'vitality'. In comparison, George Wilson lacks the powerful life force that his wife seems to have in spades.

Second Appearance of George Wilson

After meeting George Wilson, his character seems to just disappear from the story. After all, what was there really to remember? What could such a dull, spineless, and pathetic character really add to the story?

George Wilson's character becomes relevant to The Great Gatsby in Chapter 7 when Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, and Jordan Baker head into the city on a hot summer's day. Driving Gatsby's car, Nick, Tom, and Jordan stop at Wilson's gas station, only to find there is something clearly wrong with him. Wilson tells them, 'I'm sick... I've been sick all day.' It dawns on the narrator, Carraway, that, 'He Wilson discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically ill.' In his immense grief after the discovery, George Wilson decides to take a stand and move his wife somewhere out West, away from her secret lover.

That same day, the group of five leaves New York City, this time in different cars. Daisy Buchanan, driving Gatsby's car, accidentally hits Myrtle, killing her on impact. When Nick, Tom, and Jordan arrive on the scene, they realize what's happened. Wilson is positively beside himself, but an idea begins to form in his mind. His wife had been killed by a yellow car, the same car that Tom had been driving earlier that day.

Following Myrtle's death, George Wilson is a man possessed. He tracks down the owner of the yellow car, eventually determining it belongs to Jay Gatsby. As his final act in the book, George Wilson shoots Gatsby and then shoots himself.

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