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Could you please tell me what is a "singing compulsion" in the following excerpt from...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted April 4, 2013 at 4:11 PM via web

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Could you please tell me what is a "singing compulsion" in the following excerpt from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, chapter 1:

I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth—but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget : a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.

In precise that the narrators says also:

I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean toward her.

Her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened.

Thank you.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 4, 2013 at 5:36 PM (Answer #1)

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We might transliterate "singing compulsion" here as a phrase like "vibrant persuasion" or "vibrant persuasiveness". There is a poetry and an energy to Daisy's voice; its tone, its tenor, and its intentions. 

There is an implication that Daisy uses her voice for purposes of allure and coercion, drawing the listener toward her both physically and emotionally. 

Symbolically, Daisy is the promise - the American promise - of wealth. She is the treasure at the other end of Gatsby's white ladder. She is the object of desire. 

Her whole careless world revolves around this illusion: that money makes everything beautiful, even if it is not.

Importantly, she is also shallow, timid when it counts most, and unhappy. Though she successfully presents and represents an American ideal of wealth, youth and beauty.

We can further see Daisy as occupying this symbolic position in regards to the attitudes that other characters have toward her. Tom takes Daisy for granted, as he does his wealth and authority. Gatsby strives after her as after a dream. This is in keeping with his continued rise to power and prestige as well as with his sense of romance. Nick, however, is diffident toward Daisy, unsure of her true value and of her integrity. 

 

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