Thursday, July 25, 2013

Smooth

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's intriguing novel, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan has one absolutely bewitching attribute - her voice. The narrator Nick Carraway, upon being re-introduced to his cousin, picks up on it immediately.

Daisy made an attempt to rise...then she laughed, an absurd charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came into the room.

He can't stop talking about her voice.

She laughed again, as if she had said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean towards her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)

In fact, he has to stop and dwell upon that arresting sound. 

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.

As it turns out, Daisy is a silly and superficial woman who cannot love men but only things. Nick himself concludes in the end, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

Fitzgerald captured as well as anyone I know the mysterious power of the "smooth tongue" of women whom the wise father instructs his son to avoid like the plague (Prov 2:16; 6:24). The smooth tongue charms; it thrills; it intoxicates; it calms. It surreptitiously promises the world, but all that it delivers is death. The tongue of the excellent wife is full of wisdom and kindness (Prov 31:26), but there is no deceit or vanity to be found there (Prov 31:30). One of the great skills of life is to learn the difference between a voice that is beautiful and a voice that is dangerously smooth.

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