shrill gaiety

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HolyUnicorn

Senior Member
Mandarin / the Shanghai Dialect
Hello,

Of their elders some, by imitating the antics of youth, strive to persuade themselves that their day is not yet over; they shout with the lustiest, but the war cry sounds hollow in their mouth; they are like poor wantons attempting with pencil, paint and powder, with shrill gaiety, to recover the illusion of their spring.


W. Somerset Maugham: The Moon and Sixpence

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham: Chapter 2 (continued) - The Literature Page


How can I interpret “shrill gaiety”? I can understand that they shout for attention. But why are they cheerful?


OED:

Gaiety:

The quality or condition of being gay; cheerfulness, mirth.

Shrill:

Of voice, sound: Of a sharp high-pitched piercing tone.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The image he’s presenting is that of an aging prostitute, or loose woman, who tries, but fails, to appear still young and attractive by continuing to wear make-up and acting in a boisterous and cheerful manner.
     
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