If anyone deserves to preside over a prosperous kingdom, it’s George Wilson. He is clearly the most ethical and honorable character in the novel. When asked about his work by Tom, George replies that he has no complaints (29), even though he clearly has plenty going wrong that he could complain about. Even though he is sick and is advised to go to bed and rest, George refuses because of the business he may miss out on. One may see a good work ethic here.
George As A Hard Worker
George Wilson is not only a hard worker, but the only person in the novel who does honest work. The Buchannan’s are the idle rich. Jordan Baker is a cheating athlete. Gatsby and Wolfshiem are gangsters and criminals. Nick sells bonds on Wall Street at a time when speculation is rampant and will ruin the economy before the decade finishes. Nick could have taken on honest labor, but gave it a pass when he chose not to work in the family hardware store. George comments on how Tom’s man works slow (29). This further demonstrates George Wilson’s strong work ethics. When Tom warns George that most people will try to cheat you if given the chance, that demonstrates both the projection of his own predisposition to cheat others in contrast to George’s unwillingness to be anything but fair. Even the dog seller is a cheat (31-32).
George’s honorableness may be associated with his own unique level of spirituality. He is the only character who ever refers to God. Maybe living under the constant oversight of Doctor T.J. Ecklesburg’s divinely emblematic billboard encourages him to live morally. When George learns of Myrtle’s infidelity, he tells her that God sees everything, and that you can’t fool God (167). Earlier in the novel when Tom and Nick leave George’s garage, Tom says that the garage is a terrible place, and then frowns at eyeglasses (30). To Tom, the eyes of God make it a terrible place, or said in other words, a place that is full of terror. God’s all-seeing eyes frighten an immoral man like Tom, but encourage uprightness in a person like George.
After commenting that George’s garage is a terrible place, Tom says that George is so dumb he doesn’t even know he’s alive (30). Tom is not an astute observer of the human scene, so his remarks are immediately suspect. In fact, George is quite smart. Both he and Michaelis witness Myrtle’s accident, but only George notices that the man in the car murdered her when she runs out to the car to speak to him (166). Michaelis thinks she is fleeing George and that it is nothing but a terrible accident.
George’s constant spirituality makes it possible for him to ascend to a spiritual height no other character is capable of. In a sense, he heals himself of a manner of spiritual barrenness that is typical with the waste land. This begins with learning what brought about his curse in the first place: his wife. When he learns of her affair, he shows strength fro seemingly the first time in the book by resolving to move out west with his wife. Nick notices that George looks guilty (131). He does not begin with blaming others, but himself possibly for not being a good husband in Myrtle’s eyes in the first place. After she is killed and George seeks out the owner of the yellow car, he makes it to the top of Gad’s hill on his way to West Egg (168). Another way of saying Gad’s hill would be God’s hill, or, the mountain of the house of the Lord, figuratively called Zion in the Bible. Ascending God’s hill is in contrast to living in the valley of ashes.
The remarkable and tragic aspect of George’s role in The Great Gatsby is that he is some small sense is redeemed from his curse, but it leads to his death, which some might argue is still being under the curse associated with the waste land. If it does seem he is briefly delivered, it does not come about by Gatsby as the Grail Knight obtaining the Holy Grail.
Here are other articles regarding The Great Gatsby:
- “The Reliability Of Nick Carraway: Part One – The Naysaying Narrator” (10.9.12)
- “The Reliability Of Nick Carraway: Part Two – The Drive To Lunch” (10.11.12)
- “Why The Great Gatsby Is The Best American Novel” (6.21.12)
- “What Made Daisy Faye Buchanan & Jay Gatsby So Attractive And Attracted To Each Other?” (8.28.12)
- “Who Shot Jay Gatsby?” (3.4.13)