George Wilson isn’t one of the biggest characters in The Great Gatsby, but he plays a very important part.
Unfortunately, George Wilson seems to get shortchanged in this novel. He appears to be the only hard-working, truly honest person and a God-fearing Christian in the novel, but he gets zero respect and no credit for his good character.
Who was George Wilson, what does he represent, and what are his best quotes?
We will tell you everything you need to know in the following article.
Who Is George Wilson in The Great Gatsby?
George Wilson is the owner and operator of a run-down gas station in the Valley of Ashes.
He’s a working-class man who lives above the shop with his wife Myrtle Wilson.
What George doesn’t know is that his wife Myrtle is having an affair with the very wealthy Tom Buchanan.
Myrtle tells George that she takes the train to New York to visit her sister, but in reality, she goes to an apartment that Tom has rented for their trysts.
While George Wilson doesn’t appear very much in the novel, he plays a vital role.
In What Chapter Do We First Hear about George Wilson
In the second chapter of the novel, narrator Nick Carraway and his college buddy Tom Buchanan take the train to have lunch in New York.
When the train stops at the Valley of Ashes, Tom unexpectedly tells Nick to get off the train. They walk to the gas station and meet George Wilson.
This is how Nick describes George—
“He was a blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us, a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.”
George asks Tom when was he going to sell him his car. Tom tells him that one of his men is working on it. When George complains that the man must be working very slowly, Tom gets offended and says that perhaps he should sell the car elsewhere. George quickly becomes subservient and says that he didn’t mean what he said.
Myrtle Wilson comes down the stairs, and George seems oblivious to the attraction between Myrtle and Tom.
What Does George Wilson Represent in The Great Gatsby?
In this great American novel, George Wilson represents the working class.
He works hard every day, chasing the American Dream. He thinks that he’s found love with his wife Myrtle, so all he needs is to earn enough money to be comfortably rich.
While the rich flaunt their wealth and are careless with it, Wilson shows the world how the working class lives—in quiet desperation.
His wife Myrtle seems to have bigger ambitions than him, but her ambition is to marry into wealth and not to help her husband achieve the American Dream.
Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald saw himself in George Wilson—the working class writer who worked hard for his money so that he and his wife could attain upward mobility.
Tom believes that Wilson is a fool. In Chapter 2 when Nick asks if George objects to his seeing Myrtle, Tom says—
“Doesn’t her husband object?”
“Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He’s so dumb, he doesn’t know that he’s alive.”
George Wilson is clearly still in love with his wife although Myrtle makes it clear that whatever small amount of attraction she held for George is long gone.
Also in Chapter 2 ( read Gatsby Chapter 2 Quotes ), Myrtle tells Nick—
“I married him [George] because I thought he was a gentleman.” She said finally, “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”
“You were crazy about him for a while,” said Catherine [Myrtle’s sister].
“Crazy about him!” cried Myrtle incredulously “Who said I was crazy about him? I was never any more crazy about him than I was about that man there” [pointing at Nick].
Catherine notes that Tom is Myrtle’s first affair, and that George is clueless at that time. Perhaps this is why we don’t hear much more about George until Chapter 7.
- Related Post: Who Is Catherine From The Great Gatsby?
George Wilson Quotes from Chapter 7
We meet George in Chapter 2, but then he is completely forgotten about until Chapter 7 when Tom, Nick, and Jordan stop by the shop to get gas while en route to New York.
The vehicle that Tom is driving is actually Gatsby’s yellow car. As George pumps the gas, he tells Tom that he needs to sell his car because he wants to move out west.
George has realized that Myrtle is having an affair with someone, but he doesn’t know who it is. To keep her from leaving him, George has locked Myrtle upstairs in their apartment, where he plans to keep her until he has the money to leave.
After Tom has left for New York, Myrtle and George have a fight. While Fitzgerald doesn’t share all the details, we do know that a cafe owner overhears Myrtle yelling at George—
“Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!”
Myrtle sees the yellow car that Tom had been driving that afternoon. As it speeds through town, Myrtle tries to either stop it or jump into it in desperation.
This time, the car is being driven by Daisy with Gatsby as the passenger. Daisy is already upset after the fight with Tom at the New York hotel. The car hits Myrtle, stops for a moment, then continues on its way.
When someone tells George that a big yellow car hit and killed his wife, George screams—
“You don’t have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know what kind of car it was!”
George undoubtedly remembers that he put gas in the yellow car, but Tom is quick to keep George under control.
“Listen, said Tom, shaking him a little. I just got here a minute ago from New York. I was bringing you that coupe that we’ve been talking about. That yellow car I was driving this afternoon wasn’t mine—do you hear? I haven’t seen it all afternoon.”
Someone tries to console George, but he is almost hysterical.
“Some man was talking to him in a low voice and attempting from time to time to lay a hand on his shoulder, but Wilson neither heard nor saw. His eyes would drop slowly from the swinging light to the laden table by the wall and then jerk back to the light again and he gave out incessantly his high horrible call.
‘O, my Ga-od! O, my Ga-od! Oh, Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od!’
Tom puts George in an office and then closes the door.
George Wilson Quotes from Chapter 8
George cannot seem to find any peace after Myrtle’s death.
Michaelis, the restaurant owner who overheard their argument tries to find a priest, a friend, someone who might sit with George as he deals with his grief.
However, he can’t be consoled. He tells Michaelis—
“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window”—with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it— “and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’”
Earlier George stated that he didn’t have a priest or a regular church that he attended, but this statement shows that on some level, he did believe in God.
George decides to deal directly with the owner of the yellow car. The police believe that he went from gas station to gas station seeking out information until he learned who the owner was.
While Gatsby was swimming in his pool, George Wilson shot him to death, then he shot himself. Carraway narrated—
It was after we started with Gatsby towards the house that the gardener found Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
Whether George Wilson killed himself because he couldn’t live with the thought that he committed murder or he couldn’t live without Myrtle, Fitzgerald doesn’t say.
How Did George Wilson Find Out Gatsby Owned the Yellow Car?
In Chapter 9 ( see Great Gatsby Chapter 9 Quotes ), several months after Gatsby’s death, Nick happens to see Tom Buchanan in New York.
Nick is disgusted by Tom and refuses to shake his hand. Nick asks him what he said to George Wilson the day that Myrtle died.
“I told him the truth,” he said. “He came to the door as we were getting ready to leave and when I sent down word that we weren’t in, he tried to force his way upstairs.
He was crazy enough to kill me if I hadn’t told him who owned the car. His hand was on a revolver in his pocket every minute that he was in the house—” He broke off defiantly.
“What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s, but he was a tough one. He ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car.”
Whether Tom knew that Daisy had been driving that night or believed what he told Nick, the fact remains that Tom sent a man with a gun to Gatsby’s and didn’t even warn him.
While George Wilson is to be commended for his work ethic, he might be partially responsible for the death of his wife.
Had George paid more attention to what his wife was doing, perhaps if he had involved her more in running the business, she may not have had the time to get involved with Tom Buchanan. Or George may have noticed that Myrtle’s behavior didn’t match her words.
Nearly everyone in the novel plays a part in the death of Myrtle, including the long-suffering George Wilson.
While George Wilson gets the least amount of attention in this book, he plays a vital role, without which, the story could not be told.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.