The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway Quotes
Michaelis and this man reached her first, but when they had torn open her shirtwaist, still damp with perspiration, they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap, and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners, as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored for so long. (7.313)
When Nick first meets Myrtle, he notices how "alive" she seems—which we're pretty sure is code for "sexy." Maybe that's why she's so disgusting in death, like, the more you live the worse you die? We're not sure. But we do know that this is pretty gruesome.
It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete. (8.112-114)
Notice that Nick calls this a "holocaust." We're two decades before the World War II holocaust, so that's not a reference point here, but the word still means "mass destruction." The thing is, three bodies is tragic, but it's not exactly mass destruction. We think that something metaphoric is being destroyed here: a way of life? Nick's innocence? The American Dream?
Most of those reports were a nightmare – grotesque, circumstantial, eager, and untrue. When Michaelis's testimony at the inquest brought to light Wilson's suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade – but Catherine, who might have said anything, didn't say a word. She showed a surprising amount of character about it too – looked at the coroner with determined eyes under that corrected brow of hers, and swore that her sister had never seen Gatsby, that her sister was completely happy with her husband, that her sister had been into no mischief whatever. She convinced herself of it, and cried into her handkerchief, as if the very suggestion was more than she could endure. So Wilson was reduced to a man "deranged by grief," in order that the case might remain in its simplest form. And it rested there. (9.2)
The whole sordid story almost blows up in everyone's face, but Myrtle's sister saves it. George Wilson gets a kind of dignity in death that he didn't have in life: instead of a cuckold, he's a grieving husband.