Gatsby’s Death: A Question of Morals
by Feross Aboukhadijeh, 11th grade
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920s era novel The Great Gatsby, the character George Wilson shoots the protagonist Jay Gatsby dead. But who is to blame for this moral lapse in judgment? Obviously the person who pulled the trigger, right? But what about other shady characters like Tom and Daisy Buchanan who lied to George in order to get “off the hook”? It is clear that Tom and Daisy played a key role in the murder of Gatsby; therefore, they should share the responsibility for his death.
When George comes to Tom to find out who owns the yellow car, Tom reveals that it was Gatsby, knowing full well George’s deranged mental state and his intentions to murder the car owner. Furthermore, Tom fails to mention important details about the accident—like the fact that it was Daisy driving the car, not Gatsby—in order to pin the blame on Gatsby. It is obvious that Tom knew about Daisy’s involvement in car accident because of his decision to leave town the day after the incident. Furthermore, Tom’s spineless cowardice is displayed by his failure to fess up to the crime of adultery with George’s wife. It is obvious to Tom that George is hunting for the man who had the affair with his wife, and yet Tom has the mendaciousness to blame his own crimes on Gatsby as well. It must be stressed that Tom knew full well while speaking with George that afterward he would seek out Gatsby and try to kill him—and yet he does nothing. This makes him directly accountable for the death of Gatsby and thus morally responsible.
Daisy also comes in for her share of the blame because of her lack of morals. Daisy should have stopped the car immediately after she hit Myrtle, but instead she kept on driving, even increasing her speed. Gatsby said, “Anyhow—Daisy stepped on it. I tried to make her stop, but she couldn't so I pulled on the emergency brake. Then she fell over into my lap and I drove on” (151). After the accident, Daisy should have admitted her mistake and taken responsibility for the actions, but instead she chose to let Gatsby take the heat for her carelessness while she made plans to leave town. At the end of Chapter VIII, Nick sees Daisy “conspiring” with Tom—no doubt about their plan to literally leave their problems behind the next day. Daisy’s failure to come clean causes George to assume that Gatsby was driving the car and ultimately leads to his murder.
Although George played an obvious role in the murder of the novel’s hero, Jay Gatsby, he was clearly maltreated and misguided by Tom and Daisy who through their moral carelessness caused him to commit murder. George does not deserve all of the blame for his actions because he was in a precarious mental state at the time and was egged on by immoral, self-serving characters. Ultimately, Gatsby’s death was caused by a combination of Tom, Daisy, and George who must share responsibility for Gatsby’s death.