Gruesome death in Literature: Death of Myrtle Wilson

Remember those stories you used to write at primary school? You know; the ones that would end cheerily with a sudden ‘and then we all went home for tea’ flourish.

Well, sorry to pop a cap in your imaginative ass, but real life – and proper literature – isn’t like that, sonny. It’s dark, horrid and irredeemably ghastly. Well, some of the time anyway. Most notably at times of death.

Literature has captured this agonizing wail better than most art forms.

Tom Buchannan’s mistress comes to a particularly messy end when his wife Daisy accidentally mows her down, ironically enough. Naturally, Jay Gatsby takes the blame – it’s his car the pair are driving in – and, as such, seals his own fate.

Myrtle Wilson, although she makes few actual appearances in The Great Gatsby, is a pivotal character. She is the wife of George Wilson, who owns a car repair shop and sells cars, and she is the mistress of Tom Buchanan.

Her existence is first noted in a conversation between Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway, when Nick is visiting his cousin, Daisy, and her husband receives a phone call. Jordan tells him that Tom has “got some woman in New York.” A short time later, when Tom and Nick are out together, Tom decides he wants Nick to meet Myrtle. The three of them, along with a few other invited guests, end up in Tom and Myrtle’s apartment.

Death of Myrtle Wilson
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The party-goers drink and talk all through the night. Myrtle tells Nick how unhappy she is in her marriage, and she is convinced that Tom would leave Daisy and marry her if it were not for the fact that Daisy is Catholic (which Nick reveals to the readers is a lie). The night ends abruptly when Tom hits Myrtle for talking about Daisy, showing him to be a brute and hinting at his lack of commitment and regard for his mistress.

Myrtle’s next major appearance in the novel comes when she escapes her husband, who has locked her away after realizing she is having an affair. She runs out of the car shop, only to get hit by a passing car, driven by her lover’s wife.

Myrtle Wilson, who is in her mid-30s, is described as plain and “stout,” and, although she is lacking in traditional beauty, she has a sensuous air about her. Upon meeting her, Nick finds she has “an immediately perceptible vitality.” Myrtle is full of vigour and life, and she easily takes over the room.

It is clear from Myrtle’s attitude that she wants to climb the social ladder. When at the apartment, Myrtle tells Nick how she had thought that George was a gentleman and that “he knew something about breeding,” but she quickly discovered his low position in society and his lack of financial resources. The first red flag, she notes, is when she found out that he had borrowed the suit he wore at their wedding, which absolutely repulses Myrtle. George does not make enough money nor does he have a busy enough social life to keep Myrtle happy.

It is Tom’s social standing and his financial resources which draw Myrtle to him. With him, she is able to escape her normal life, and she can socialize above the rank of her husband. Tom spoils her with the things that George cannot afford. Myrtle has hope that one day Tom will finally leave Daisy and marry her, saving her from her miserable life with George Wilson’s

light. She is shown to be a narcissistic, materialistic social climber who belittles her struggling husband while going behind his back to get what she wants from another man. However, her character flaws are not her fault, having been caused by her environment and the pressures to rise high in society and consume.

George Wilson holds Myrtle back from the life that she wants. Before marrying George, Myrtle believed that he had more money and higher social standing than he did. She grew to resent him for not living up to her expectations. She belittles him in front of the company, such as when she sends him off to get chairs when Nick and Tom drop by, and she loudly degrades him, such as when she complains about him later that day at the apartment.

Meanwhile, George, who Tom describes as “so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive,” does not seem to notice his wife’s affair through much of the novel. It isn’t until near the end when he finds the collar she purchased for the dog that Tom bought her, that he realizes something is amiss. In response, George locks Myrtle away, while he tries to gather the money to take her and move her out West against her will. Myrtle, at first feeling trapped by her husband’s lack of finances and his meagre social circle, is now literally trapped, a victim of her husband’s possessiveness.

Although The Great Gatsby is full of tragic characters who don’t get what they want, Myrtle’s fate is among the most tragic, as she is a victim of both her husband as well as people she’s never met. Myrtle is a constant prisoner. At the beginning of the book she’s stuck in the figurative prison of her social class and her depressing marriage. Midway through, however, this immaterial prison becomes literal when George, suspicious that she’s cheating on him, locks her in their rooms above the garage. This situation only amplifies her desperation to escape, which leads to her death in Chapter 7. When she escapes and runs out in front of Gatsby’s car, she does so because she saw Tom driving it earlier in the day; she thinks he’s behind the wheel. Daisy, who doesn’t know Myrtle, is driving the car when it strikes Myrtle down; Daisy doesn’t even stop to see what happened and escapes without consequences. The lower-class characters – Gatsby, Myrtle, and George – are thus essentially sacrificed for the moral failings of the upper-class characters of Tom and Daisy.

By admin

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