Automobiles and People: Both Can Wreck

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"We saw the three or four automobiles and the crowd when we were still some distance away.  'Wreck!' said Tom.  'That's good.  Wilson'll have a little business, at last.'"

Chapter 7, pg 144 (in Penguin Popular Classics edition)

The above quotation blatantly refers to the scene of bustling bystanders surrounding Myrtle Wilson's death.  Tom Buchanan in his ignorance (innocent of the knowledge of the event, but equally subjective to his own arrogance) looks brightly upon the prospect of George having some work, that is until Tom discovers that the wreck is his own mistress.  This is one wreck that George cannot fix....even with the murder of Gatsby. 

The wreck is much more encompassing than a simple case of Gatsby's car plowing through Myrtle Wilson's body, thus depriving it of life.  There are multiple wrecks.  With the death of Myrtle, George seemingly loses what sanity he might have had, Tom's secret life with Myrtle is gone but its existence is about to come clear to George, Gatsby is indirectly doomed by Tom's self-defense, and of course, Gatsby's car is in need of a new fender.

 Fitzgerald displays how the wreck is a destructive force of epic proportions in multiple ways.  In a sense, he virtually removes the objects from the story and leaves the people.  The damage to the car is superfluous compared to the blows dealt to Myrtle, George, Tom, and Gatsby.  Perhaps they were all wrecks to begin with? This incident acted as the catalyst in order to expose them for what they really were.

Myrtle had no chance of being truly happy with an abusive lover and a dense husband.  George was on a collision course with reality from the start: the fact that he was walked all over only packed the pressure tighter and permitted a greater explosion.  Tom is a brute and would never truly understand how to fit in with society and not be a complete hypocrit.  Poor Gatsby was doomed to disappointment when he first set out on trying to win Daisy over through his money.

So as you can see, both automobiles and people can wreck.  Some simply wreck with greater force and degree.


Alyssa Sanow said:

I can really appreciate the way that you see the car crash as a catalyst to the resolution of the novel. I never quite saw it that way before, but now I totally agree with you! I think it's also important to see the irony that exists because Myrtle was running out to the car because she had seen Tom driving it earlier but it was Daisy behind the wheel who killed her. Daisy, who had known about the mistress, had no idea Myrtle was having an affair with Tom. The car crash is definitely a culminating event in The Great Gatsby; one that triggers many interpretations.

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