What are the differences in the reactions of Nick and Gatsby to Daisy's voice in Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby?

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karythcara's profile pic

Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Nick and Gatsby have a brief discussion about the quality of Daisy's voice in Chapter 7, so we have some direct indicators of their reactions to Daisy's voice, but her voice continues as a motif through the chapter, which provides some indirect indicators of their reactions as well. Further, in order to understand what Nick might have said in the dashes, "'It's full of----'," we need to examine the voice motif developed in earlier chapters. Nick doesn't just come out with "'She's got an indiscreet voice'" all of a sudden; Nick's remark comes as a result of contemplation he has bestowed on her voice during previous encounters.
 
Nick's reaction to Daisy's voice while he and Gatsby's are at Tom and Daisy's home and commenting on why Gatsby can't speak to her while there is that her voice is indiscreet. What Nick means--what develops from those earlier encounters--is that her voice, with its musical "contralto" rising and falling quality, is rich in emotion, "rising and swelling ... with gusts of emotion," with "fluctuating, feverish warmth": Daisy's "voice [is] a deathless song." This musical expression of "feverish" emotion that is Daisy's voice would not be discreet, would not hide her feelings for Gatsby from Tom. Daisy and Gatsby would be exposed by the very texture of Daisy's voice. Nick's reaction is that the melody of her voice rising and falling on emotion is indiscreet, but he falters on filling in what, exactly, her voice is "full of"--besides music and emotion--that causes this indiscretion. Gatsby fills it in for him: "'Her voice is full of money.'"
 
Gatsby's reaction to Daisy's voice at this juncture implicitly (indirectly) confirms Nick's reaction (yes, he implies, her voice is indiscreet) while providing a knowing reason for why it is so. Gatsby provides the reason why her voice is indiscreet; why her voice is musical, "glowing and singing"; why her voice undulates with changing powerful emotion; why her voice rises and falls, entrancing those who listen; why the "exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic." Gatsby's reaction to her voice identifies the sound of wealth in it, a sound that lured him to chase his dream of winning her heart (if he could match the "sound of money" that motivates her heart, then he could capture her heart): "'Her voice is full of money.'" And Nick agrees with Gatsby's reaction:
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . .
It can correctly be said that, while their initial reactions may have different expressions, with Nick reacting to her voice's indiscretion and Gatsby, after some thought--"he said suddenly"--reacting to the underlying sense of privilege and entitlement born of money that makes it sing indiscreetly, their reactions to Daisy's voice accord with and are in agreement with each other. Both acknowledge the entrancing quality of her voice, with its "warm human magic"; both acknowledge the indiscreet quality ("money" has no need for discretion, which is for the powerless to be concerned with); both acknowledge it's musicality; both acknowledge its rising and falling ripple; both acknowledge it's emotive power.
 
Nick's reaction to Daisy's voice differs from Gatsby's in that Nick has noted the insincerity that can be wrapped in that musically entrancing voice while Gatsby has, up to their misadventure in the New York hotel suite, been blind to her insincerity, though he then awakens to it:
Nick: "The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick...."
Gatsby: "her voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn ... Gatsby's eyes opened and closed. ... 'You loved me too?' he repeated."
In summary, the differences in their reactions to Daisy's voice are few while their agreements are many. They differ in recognizing the insincerity carried in the captivating thrill of her emotive contralto voice: Nick perceives it; Gatsby, until his shock in the hotel, does not. Yet they agree that hers is an entrancing musically emotional voice, a song, like a "nightingale," and that money is the "inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it."

[Daisy said,] "There's a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over .... He's singing away----" her voice sang "----It's romantic, isn't it,...?"

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby, Nick and Gatsby are waiting outside the Buchanans' house waiting to drive to New York. Daisy is upstairs preparing for the drive. Gatsby says to Nick that he "can't say anything in [Tom's] house." Gatsby means that he can't speak in front of Tom, Daisy's husband. Nick answers, "She's got an indiscreet voice ... It's full of---." Nick hesitates, not knowing how to identify the quality in Daisy's voice. Gatsby answers suddenly, "Her voice is full of money." Nick realizes immediately:

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . .

Nick realizes how alluring Daisy's voice can be: "her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened." Gatsby has long realized the charms of Daisy's voice because her voice for him was like a siren call. Her voice is appealing in a seductive way, just as the clink of coins is appealing and seductive. Gatsby's reaction to her voice changes as soon as he hears the insincere lies that the song of it hides, "'You loved me too?'" an insincerity Nick perceived for a long time.

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cybil's profile pic

cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Nick declares that Daisy has "an indiscreet voice" while Gatsby says it's "full of money."  Nick's description conveys his perception of Daisy as a woman who is not careful about what her voice (rather than her words) expresses. His comment suggests that she may be revealing her relationship with Gatsby; earlier Daisy said to Jay, "'You always look so cool,'" and Nick tells us "she had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw."

Gatsby himself, on the other hand, reinforces our interpretation of his attraction to Daisy based on her wealth. He has chased his dream relentlessly because of the "jingle" of money in her charming voice, a voice that is a "deathless" song and dream; she is, as Nick describes her, "High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl."

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