The Power of Voice in Novel The Great Gatsby

What’s the power of one person’s voice? What kind of influence can they have on a person? Tom and Daisy Buchanan each have distinct voices and ways of talking that show up throughout the book. Tom’s voice is described as “a gruff husky tenor”, while Daisy’s voice is described as 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….there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion”. Through the use of their voice, they can lure you in or let you know exactly how they feel simply by changing the way that they talk and what they say. Tom used his voice to draw Daisy back to him at the end of the book and Daisy caused Tom to suddenly become a loving husband again by the use of her voice. The power of their voices both drives them together and apart as they have affairs with others but always seem to come back to each other. Their discontent and love for one another are found in the way that they talk to each other, how they talk to others, and how they resolved conflict together at the end of the book.

Tom and Daisy seemed to be in a loving relationship, as Nick hadn’t heard anything bad about their marriage previous to their dinner party, and they share a child together. However, things aren’t always what they seem and Daisy and Tom’s frustrations with one another are discovered the first time Nick comes over to their house. Daisy noticed a bruise on her knuckle and exclaimed

“‘You did it, Tom.’ She said accusingly. ‘I know you didn’t mean to, but you did do it. That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a---- ‘I hate that word hulking,’ objected Tom crossly…. ‘Hulking,’ insisted Daisy”.

Through this simple interaction at their small dinner party, it becomes apparent that Daisy’s relationship with Tom is far from perfect as she talks to him accusingly and insists on using a word he hates. While this may seem like she’s just upset about the bruise on her finger, in reality, this comment is attacking Tom and showing that she is truly upset with him. The words she uses to describe him are negative characteristics and are not used as a compliment. The way she talks to him further shows that this comment means more than what Nick might think as a guest observing this interaction, but is a hint to a deeper problem. Later in the evening, the tension between them becomes present again when Tom said,

“‘She’s a nice girl,’ said Tom after a moment. ‘They oughtn’t to let her run around the country this way.’ ‘Who oughtn’t to?’ inquired Daisy coldly….Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence”.

This is another example of how Daisy interacts with Tom as she talked to him coldly and then sat in silence. While words can communicate how someone feels, so can a lack thereof. Daisy was characterized as a chatty person who was constantly using the powers of her voice to the max and this sudden silence between her and Tom is showing a new level of emotion as she is not trying to cover up their rift here as she had done in previous situations. Their silence shows that frustrations are growing between them to the point where neither has anything to say. The way in which Daisy and Tom talk to one another makes you think that they can’t stand being around each other and reveal this inner conflict they deal with regarding their relationship.

The way that Tom talks to Myrtle and Daisy talks to Gatsby is much different than Tom and Daisy’s dialogue with one another on a daily basis. When they are with their other lovers the characteristics of their voices change in a positive way and convey genuine happiness and love that was not present at their dinner party with Nick and Jordan. Daisy talks to Gatsby in a way that pulls him in closer to her and she never once subtly insulted him as she constantly does to Tom. When Daisy and Gatsby met at Nick’s house Gatsby exclaimed,

“‘What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.’ ‘I’m glad, Jay.’ Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy”.

The way she said three words to Gatsby showed more love than the many things that she had said to Tom in the past. This further shows the power of Daisy’s voice and how much it reveals about her and how she feels. When Tom and Nick went to meet Myrtle, Tom spoke to her in a way that he’s never talked to Daisy. As Myrtle walked to Tom he said, ‘“I want to see you,” said Tom intently”’. While this may not seem like much, he had never shown this interest in being with Daisy and only seemed annoyed when he was with her. Both of these examples show how Tom and Daisy’s voices can convey more than annoyance and frustration, but love and happiness when they are with others. While Daisy’s voice is more animated than Tom’s, his voice can also change subtly to show emotion. Their behavior around others further shows that Tom and Daisy have underlying problems in their relationship that push them to their other lovers. This is present in the changes of their tone and what they’re saying when they are with someone else.

The climax of their relationship problems comes towards the end of the book when Tom, Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan, and Nick go to a hotel room on a very hot day. This is the event where they confront the problems they’ve been facing and the true power of their voices becomes known. Gatsby has almost fully convinced Daisy to leave Tom for him and made her emotions grow to the point of extreme anger. Gatsby and Tom were in a heated argument when she interjected and yelled, “‘You’re revolting’ said Daisy. She turned to me, and her voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn: ‘Do you know why we left Chicago? I’m surprised they didn’t treat you to the story of that little spree’”. The drastic change in Daisy’s voice shows her anger towards Tom. Her voice changed from something that was soft, gentle, and mesmerizing to something that conveyed thrilling scorn. She had reached the peak of her anger which caused her voice to completely change. Her rage was only growing until Gatsby pushed her too far when he asked her to say that she never loved Tom. “‘I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance….Her voice was cold, but the rancor was gone from it”. There is another shift in her voice that reveals that her anger is now gone and the power she once had is leaving her. Tom responds perfectly by changing his voice to be soft and heartfelt. He said, “‘Not that day I carried you down from the Punch Bowl to keep your shoes dry?’ There was a husky tenderness in his tone….”Daisy’”. The way Tom changed his voice to seem like he truly loved his wife and cared about her caused Daisy to second guess her plan and realize what she has in Tom. The alteration of both of their voices shows that the anger and frustration inside of them are gone, and they truly don’t want to leave each other even if it seems like their life could be better with a different person.

The voices of Tom and Daisy convey their emotions and the state of their relationship continues through how they talk to each other, how they talk to others, and how they resolved conflict at the end of the book. Their voices caused a split between them in the beginning of Nick’s time in the city, as Tom went to Myrtle and Daisy went to Gatsby, and pulled them back together in the hotel room after Gatsby pushed Daisy too far. It seemed as though they loved the person they were having an affair with more than each other through the way they talked to them and behaved around them, however, they returned to one another and continued to forget about everything that happened. Their voices conveyed more about how they felt than their physical actions. The unique power that each of their voices had is what caused the conflict between them but was also the tool that resolved it and kept them from making life-changing decisions. The story of their relationship is an example of the power a person’s voice can have as Tom and Daisy underwent serious challenges but were able to come back together at the end even though the problems they faced will likely come back.

Works Cited

  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1925. 
07 July 2022
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