"And you think I didn't have my suffering--look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog biscuits sitting there on that sideboard, I sat down and cried like a baby. By God it was awful--"
Tom’s Hidden Susceptibility
At the beginning of Chapter 2, Tom buys Myrtle a dog after she earnestly begs for one. Now sometime after her death, Tom admits that seeing the dog treats triggered a strong reaction from him. Tom bears obvious guilt and remorse for his indirect and direct participation leading to Myrtle’s death. However, Fitzgerald is demonstrating an even bigger flaw in Tom’s character. Despite tremendous wealth and an elevated position in society, Tom is still susceptible to the emotions he tries to avoid having, namely the dependence and love of others.
The dog not only serves as a physical reminder of their relationship, but also a semblance of Myrtle’s ‘romantic innocence’ or her pure desires to want more from the world. Myrtle genuinely wanted the dog and was so excited about how cute it was. Tom doesn’t show this same ‘excitement’ over things because he has been indoctrinated into a world where one just expects to get things and acts with a certain understated decorum. Although he treated Myrtle terribly, Myrtle still represents an ‘outlet’ through which Tom saw life from a less cynical perspective. Tom cries because Myrtle’s death is just concrete evidence that he has the propensity to corrupt things.
Nick intends on confronting Tom about his careless and ruthless role in leading Wilson on to kill Gatsby. Yet he knows Tom’s character is in some sense a product of the environment around him. It’s ironic that Tom mentions his “suffering,” because he truly doesn’t understand the plight of less wealthy people who have gone through more, such as Myrtle, Wilson, or Gatsby. However, there is perhaps some sympathy to be felt for Tom. As much as he is ‘susceptible’ to emotions like crying for someone you cared for, he has forced himself into believing that he has to hide the way he feels to be accepted among the upper class.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Great Gatsby (Chapter IX)” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and leave a comment on the lyrics box