"The Great Gatsby"- Tom Buchanan & Myrtle Wilson

Essay by gurlnthecurl13 April 2007

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In the Great Gatsby, social standings are always on the minds of the East and West Eggers. Either thinking about their wealth, appearances, or where they really stand in the social ladder, they are constantly thinking about themselves; and while some despise each other for what they are, others only dream about being them-people like Myrtle Wilson. Through Fitzgerald’s choice of diction and detail, he conveys Myrtle as a low class dreamer, only desiring the acceptance from the upscale socialite friends of her boyfriend Tom; and Tom as a self-absorbed, wealthy, and power craving aristocrat.

Tom Buchanan, the wealthy and self absorbed socialite, is a man whose main goal in life is to obtain complete and ultimate superiority. He does this by surrounding himself with his wealth and material possessions, and by controlling every aspect of his life as well as the lives of others. This is ultimately displayed in his affairs with Myrtle Wilson. Even though he buys her a flask of perfume, a moving picture magazine, and a dog, he only does this to keep her around as one of his possessions-if she stays around, she will fulfill his commands, which in turn, fuels his need for dominance. This superiority is also shown when Nick attempts to leave Tom and Myrtle in New York. Instead of Tom asking him why he is leaving, he “interposed” that Nick was not going anywhere. He practically commanded Nick to stay, and since did decide to stay, he (like Myrtle) assured Tom of the power and control he has over the people in his life.

Myrtle Wilson, a flapper and woman of the lower class, has one major and absolute desire; to join the social stature of the higher class. Other than engaging in sexual affairs with Tom Buchanan, she believes that by imitating the appearances and characteristics of the high class socialites she will be accepted into their society. This is first displayed when Myrtle changes into a “brown figured muslin”-muslins are made of cheap, sheet-like fabric and are made to look better than they really are. Myrtle wears this muslin to disguise herself and make her appear of a higher status. Next, is her (actually Tom’s) purchase of a “small flask of perfume”. As we all know, perfume is used to mask or cover up an odor, but in this case it is used to make Myrtle seem like she can afford an expensive luxury item-supporting her reason to be able to fit in with the other aristocrats. Last, is when Myrtle lets “four taxi cabs drive away before she selected a new, lavender-colored” cab. This fake act of high maintenance is Myrtle’s attempt to feel superior; it is her depiction of what high class people do-settling for what they want and what they consider perfect.

In the end, and despite all of Myrtle’s efforts towards achieving a higher social status, she will never be able to reach it-she is too fake, and tries too hard to be accepted into the elite class. They can see she is fake, and know that because since she’s trying so hard to fit in, she is lying about her real social identity, and they will only see her as a wannabe of true social higharchy. Overall, Fitzgerald’s main purpose in exposing these characters’ desires and characteristics is to prove that even though you can adopt and pretend to be something you’re not, you can never change who you really are.