One of the only working-class characters in The Great Gatsby, George Wilson owns an unsuccessful business in The Valley of Ashes, a poor neighborhood that lies between West Egg and Manhattan. In contrast to the physically impressive Tom, the beautiful Daisy, and the charming, colorful Gatsby, George is described as a “blond, spiritless man, anaemic and faintly handsome.” A once-promising young man, George has since been beaten into submission by poverty. His wife, Myrtle, is having an affair, which causes him great pain—although, it’s important to note that George does not know who Myrtle’s affair partner is. However, George holds onto the hope of a different future. He dreams of a new life in the American West, where he and his wife can start anew, repair their marriage, and find financial and material stability. George’s dream of escape complements Gatsby’s dream of inclusion, and by the end of the novel, both men are victims of the illusory American dream and the wealthy society that they orbit.
As the novel progresses, George is perhaps the only character who truly fears punishment for his role in contributing to a morally decrepit society. He equates the watchful eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg with God, saying “God sees everything.” But George has little power to change his circumstances in a society so burdened with extreme wealth inequality, a sad reality that is exhibited in his fateful actions at the end of the novel. In an attempt to get justice for his wife’s death, George seeks out the owner of the car that hit and killed Myrtle, and he is mistakenly led to believe that Gatsby was at fault for the death. Thus, George murders Gatsby and then turns the gun on himself, allowing the Buchanans to escape the consequences of their actions. Here, George becomes a tragic symbol of the powerlessness of the working class in America, and the Buchanans are made into an example of how the wealthy can cause destruction to their communities with no repercussions.