Who Was George Wilson in The Great Gatsby? Character Analysis and More

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

character George Wilson in The Great Gatsby novel

If you’re reading the great American novel The Great Gatsby, you are introduced to the character George Wilson in the second chapter.

You may have lots of feelings about this man, and you might be tempted to dismiss him as a dolt and unimportant, but wait until you finish the book.

Who was George Wilson in The Great Gatsby? Why is his small role so important to the story?

Keep reading for a full character analysis and more.

Who Is George Wilson in The Great Gatsby?

George Wilson is an auto mechanic and gas station owner who lives in the dreadful Valley of Ashes.

This man is married to Myrtle, who is having an affair with Tom Buchanan, the husband of Daisy.

George comes across as a hard-working but not very astute man who is unaware of his wife’s affair, believing her stories that she is visiting her sister Catherine, who lives in New York.

George Wilson is a mechanic and gas station owner

While his wife and sister-in-law don’t seem to have a very high opinion of George, this isn’t well deserved.

George might be preoccupied with his work and trying to earn a living, but he does seem to be honest, have a good work ethic, and truly seems to love his wife.

What Are George Wilson’s Character Traits

We mention some of his traits above, but above all, George is one of the few people in this novel who is truly a salt-of-the-earth type of guy.

There is nothing fancy about George. He doesn’t wear clothes to impress anyone, he says what he means, and he’s quite straightforward with what he wants and/or needs.

When Tom and Nick stop by his shop en route to New York, George immediately asks Tom if he’s going to give him a particular car to sell.

George is obviously poor and wants Tom’s old car to sell to earn some extra cash. When Tom tells George that the car was being repaired, George answers that Tom’s mechanic seems terribly slow, and that he could repair the car quickly.

It’s easy to see that, not only does George want or need the car badly, he is trying to impress Tom with his skills.

Tom is not impressed by a lowly mechanic and threatens to give the car to someone else. George backs down immediately and promises to wait.

While George is described as “faintly handsome”, he doesn’t seem to have much self-esteem and is quick to give in to anyone who stands up to him, including his wife.

George Wilson is hard-working, respectable, honest, and loves his wife very much. Unfortunately, this feeling is not returned.

Who or What Does George Wilson Represent?

Jason Clarke plays the character of George Wilson in the Great Gatsby movie

F. Scott Fitzgerald uses George Wilson to represent the working-class American.

He works hard but is not making any headway. George loves his wife and seems happy with his life at the run-down garage. However, despite his best efforts, he will never reach the American dream of owning his own home and becoming rich.

George Wilson is the reminder that most Americans live these quiet lives of desperation. While the rich, such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan, can flaunt their wealth and use it to escape the harsh realities of life, George has no such option.

You will find that George Wilson is the only character who seems to believe in God. You’ll find his statements about God in The Great Gatsby George Wilson quotes.

George comes across as weak and powerless, which is how the author viewed not only himself but the majority of people in America who struggle to make ends meet every day.

Why Is George Wilson an Important Character?

While George might seem like just another cuck in this novel, without him, the climax of the story could not be told.

George is the catalyst who does the dirty work that Tom wishes he had the guts to do himself.

After his wife Myrtle is killed, George is inconsolable. He knew that Myrtle had been seeing another man, but he didn’t know whom.

Tom, seeing an opportunity to get Gatsby out of his life (and away from his wife) and take suspicion away from himself, tells George privately that the yellow car that hit Myrtle belonged to Jay Gatsby.

Presumably, he also told George where Gatsby lived.

Unable to live with the fact that his wife was cheating on him and tried to jump into the car driven by her lover, George goes to Gatsby’s house and shoots him as he was swimming in his pool.

blonde man in white shirt and black suspenders

George also could not bear to live with the fact that he had murdered someone, so he goes off into the garden and shoots himself.

Fitzgerald seemed to show that only the working class pays the price for their deeds. Wealthy Tom Buchanan (read about Buchanan’s Character Traits )pays no price for his affair with Myrtle, nor does he suffer any consequences for telling George about Gatsby’s whereabouts.

Wealthy socialite Daisy Buchanan also pays no price for being the driver of the car that killed Myrtle Wilson.

Nick Carraway pays a small price with his feelings, but he also benefits from the death of Myrtle Wilson by having his eyes opened to how the rich behave.

George Wilson plays a very important part in the novel, showing how the moral and decent people in America pay the greatest price.

Why Did George Want to Move Out West?

While we don’t know where George is originally from, we do know that he feels worn out trying to scrape a living out of the garage in the Valley of Ashes.

When Tom stops to fill Gatsby’s yellow car with gas, Tom tells him that they (George and his wife Myrtle) have lived in the apartment over the garage for 11 years and that it’s time they made the move “out West”.

We don’t know if George simply means west of the Valley of Ashes or West as in California. Perhaps he doesn’t even have a particular city in mind, but it’s clear that George is ready for a change.

In addition to being exhausted trying to earn a living, George knows that his wife is seeing someone else. He’s heartbroken but has no plans to leave her; rather, he believes that by moving away from the area, he will stop his wife’s affair.

George locks Myrtle in the apartment upstairs until he can find a way to earn enough cash to make the move.

Who Played George Wilson in the 2013 Movie Version of The Great Gatsby?

Jason Clarke as George Wilson in The Great Gatsby 2013 movie version

In the 2013 movie version of the Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, Jason Clarke played the spiritless man George Wilson.

You might recognize Jason Clarke from other movies he has acted in, including Pet Sematary, Everest, and Planet of the Apes.

Final Summary

George Wilson, Myrtle Wilson (learn more about Myrtle Wilson’s Character traits ), and Jay Gatsby are all tragic figures in this novel. All three characters are connected back to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s idea that the American dream is a sham, and only the wealthy will benefit from it.

The fate of George and Myrtle Wilson shatters any thought that the working poor can climb any higher on the social ladder.

George Wilson was powerless in the face of old money, social status, and the privilege that the wealthy are accustomed to.

Who Was George Wilson in The Great Gatsby? Character Analysis and More
Who Was George Wilson in The Great Gatsby? Character Analysis and More
You might think that George Wilson in The Great Gatsby has a very minor part in the novel, until you know the full story. Find out everything about him here
Gatsby Flapper Girl