How Did Tom and Myrtle Meet in The Great Gatsby

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

The Great Gatsby is a novel about love and betrayal, but beyond that, it’s a story about the times in which author F. Scott Fitzgerald lived.

Tom is married to Daisy, and Myrtle is married to George Wilson. Tom and Myrtle are having an affair but where did these two meet?

Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby 2013 movie

After all, Tom is a rich man who doesn’t have (or need) a job, where he could meet people from all walks of life. In other words, he wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to meet, let alone get intimate with, a lower class housewife like Myrtle Wilson.

Keep reading to find out the details about their relationship.

Where Did Tom and Myrtle Meet?

At a party in Tom and Myrtle’s apartment in Manhattan, Myrtle tells Nick that she met Tom on the train.

Myrtle explains how she met Tom:

“It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to 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 shirtfront 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. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was “you can’t live forever, you can’t live forever”.

Her last line “you can’t live forever” shows that Myrtle knew full well that she may be getting into a taxi with a murderer or someone who might kill her, but she obviously didn’t care.

The fact that Myrtle was willing to go off with a man that she didn’t know only solidifies her status as a low-class person.

The same thing can be said of Tom. The fact that he was willing to have sex with a woman he didn’t know says a lot about him as well.

Tom uses people of a lower class the same way he uses cars. To him, they are objects that bring him pleasure, nothing more.

Could Tom and Myrtle Have Met Elsewhere?

The story Myrtle tells Nick is a bit unbelievable and a bit shocking. Even today, it is difficult to imagine a man and a woman not speaking to each other on the train, then getting in a taxi together to go to a hotel to have sex.

The longer version might be that Myrtle had seen Tom at her husband’s gas station on previous occasions. Perhaps they were even introduced to one another by Myrtle’s husband, George.

a man holding a woman close to him

When Myrtle was on the train, she very well could have met Tom again and decided to have an affair with this wealthy man, believing him to be safe.

This is all conjecture since we only know what Myrtle told us about how they met. Tom never tells Nick or anyone else about how he met Myrtle or why he is having an affair with her.

What Was the Reason Tom and Myrtle Fought?

Myrtle provoked the fight when she kept repeating Daisy’s name (learn more on what does Myrtle say about Daisy), refusing to shut up when Tom told her to, but let’s get to the backstory first.

Both Tom and Myrtle seem to be living out a little fantasy in their affair.

Myrtle wants to believe that Tom will save her from her unhappy marriage and can offer her a life that her husband never could.

Whether she truly believes that Tom will leave Daisy and marry her isn’t known, but even if she just remains Tom’s mistress, he can provide her with material things and a life that her husband cannot.

As soon as Myrtle gets to the apartment, she changes her clothes, ditching her everyday dress to an expensive chiffon dress that was obviously purchased for her by Tom. It’s as if Myrtle wants to play house and “try on” the life of the super-wealthy.

As for Tom, he wants to play the part of the teenager when he’s with Myrtle. He seems to want to party, get drunk, have sex with whomever, and just enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

Nick's description of Myrtle Wilson in the Great Gatsby Novel

Nick’s description of Myrtle is nearly the opposite of Daisy. Whether Tom likes women who are a bit plump, loud, and lack the composure that Daisy has or he enjoys seeing how the other half live, we don’t know. What Nick tells us is that Myrtle is quite the opposite of Tom’s wife, Daisy.

The argument between Tom and Myrtle happens when Myrtle refuses to play along with Tom’s fantasy and mentions Daisy.

Did Myrtle know that he would become violent? Was she so lost in her fantasy that for a moment she believed she and Daisy had reversed roles and that she was Tom’s wife? Or was Myrtle so drunk that she lost her sense of reason for a time?

Whatever the reason, Myrtle began bellowing out Daisy’s name. This destroyed Tom’s fantasy. He told her to shut up but Myrtle continued, telling Tom that she would say whatever she wanted and yelling, “Daisy Daisy Daisy Daisy!”

Tom backhands her and easily breaks her nose.

This argument had less to do with Daisy’s name and more to do with control. Tom was making it clear to Myrtle that he was the boss and she would do as commanded or else.

Who Else Do Tom, Nick, and Myrtle Meet at the Apartment?

Once they arrive at the apartment, Myrtle quickly calls her sister Catherine and her friends Mr. and Mrs. McKee (Read more on Mr McKee in The Great Gatsby ).

Now there are six people in what is described as a small apartment, along with the dog that Tom had bought Myrtle.

One might think that Tom would want to keep his affair with another woman a bit more private but feels fairly confident he can be open about his affair since New York is a big city and his social status will protect him.

Catherine (Myrtle’s sister) and the McKees are all beneath Tom and Daisy as far as social class goes, so he isn’t concerned that they will tell his wife or anyone else who “matters” since they don’t travel in the same social circles.

In What Chapter Does Nick Meet Myrtle Wilson?

Nick Meets Myrtle Wilson in chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby

This all happens in the second chapter of the book.

In Chapter 1, Nick reunites with his cousin Daisy, after not seeing her for years, and he hears Jordan Baker’s gossip that Tom has “a woman” in New York (read more Jordan Baker Quotes here). At this point, there was no mention of the mistress’s name.

In the second chapter, the rumor is all confirmed, Tom’s woman takes form in Myrtle, and Nick gets a better look at who his friend Tom really is.

Final Summary

The entire chapter, considering that it was written in 1925, was a shocking display of how the rich live and use the poor for their entertainment.

Via Tom’s violent act against Myrtle, Fitzgerald shows that Tom is not only a brute but that even the very rich have everyday flaws that most would like to think plague only the poor.

If you haven’t done so, you might want to read the summaries of the first and second chapters (read more on The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Summary ).

Fitzgerald uses the first chapter as an introduction into the world of the wealthy upper class. The second chapter is designed to show us the dark, ugly underbelly of that same world.

How Did Tom and Myrtle Meet in The Great Gatsby
How Did Tom and Myrtle Meet in The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby, Tom has an affair with Myrtle. How did the wealthy Tom Buchanan meet the poor housewife Myrtle? Find out this and more in this article.
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