The Representation of Female Revolt and Emancipation in Daisy Miller and Sister Carrie
This essay will be examining the many ways in which Henry James and Theodore Dreiser represent the role of women, female revolt and/or the emancipation in literature in the nineteenth century. Daisy Miller, is a novella about a young and pretty American girl named Daisy Miller and her courtship with a young American named Winterbourne. Written by Henry James in 1878, James explored many themes within his novel such as respect, the role of women, foreignness, tradition and many more. Sister Carrie, is a novel written by Theodore Dreiser, about a young suburban girl who moves to the big city with an American Dream. Similarly, to James, Dreiser explores many themes within his novel, such as: the role of women and femininity, class, and society, and many more. The readers must bear in mind that the time period of these novels is crucial when discussing the representation of women and female revolts, mainly because the expectations of women in the nineteenth century were to be more domestic and less adventurous and outspoken. Throughout this essay, the representation of women and the female revolt will be heavily examined in terms of its context and origin in time.
Daisy Miller, is a story that revolves around the main character Daisy, who is a rather independent, self-confident, and naïve individual in her escapades across Europe. With a rather unrefined American nature, her antics manage to make a reputation for herself within society, leading Winterbourne to become indecisive about his feelings and position with her. James, is successful at exploring the representation of female revolt in his novella as the main character, Daisy, challenges the ideal conventions of a woman in the nineteenth century period. “I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do.”  From this quote the reader can infer that Daisy is a very independent lady and doesn’t like to rely upon or trust a gentleman’s opinion. In a time where society was most likely patriarchal, Daisy is extremely firm when taking a stand against Winterbourne, after he attempts to discourage her from hanging out with a man she just met, Giovanelli, she even uses the term “imperious”  to describe Winterbourne’s domineering assertion. In Richard Hocks study of short fiction, Hocks explores how Daisy is an individual who “ignores class structures and customary behaviour…treating all she meets as equal human beings.”  It is clear that Hock is able to make links between Daisy’s character and the theme of class and society in James’ novella, he suggests that whilst she goes against the customary behaviour she treats every individual the same, which can be seen as a positive quality as she does not treat anyone differently depending on their status or class. Again, a characteristic that is not conventional for a woman in the nineteenth century.
Another perspective the readers can understand about the female revolt and/or role of women is the way in which the male characters view them. For example, the way in which Winterbourne admirably describes Daisy’s beauty is by grouping her into a category with other attractive, American women. “How pretty they are,”  Winterbourne is categorizing Daisy with other Americans as he uses the term ‘they’, although he is attracted to her he refuses to identify her as an individual, but instead as part of a group, a type. The fact that Winterbourne chooses to place women into categories shows that he either objectifies or makes an opinion about the women he comes across. Later in the novel, as Winterbourne realises Daisy is a girl of a flirty nature, the reader can begin to understand why he groups women together. As Robert Weisbuch mentions in Pollack’s, New Essays on Daisy Miller, and The Turn of the Screw. The American Novel Series, he states that, “Winterbourne will not allow women to be, will not grant them an integrating wholeness, will instead dissect and categorize.”  This explains why Winterbourne is a man who has a demeaning attitude and perspective towards women, as he could dislike them, and even more so when they emit negative traits. This links in to the representation of the female revolt as the way women were perceived by the opposite sex in this book is of a mixed opinion. At one stage they are deemed attractive and vibrant and then considered a ‘type’ due to their characteristics and qualities.
Considering the idea that Winterbourne could be against women who inhibit negative qualities, he does make Daisy aware that her flirtatious nature is acceptable and appropriate if he is the recipient of that flirting. This declaration makes the reader want to question Winterbourne’s motives and character to understand his morals better. In comparison to the other gentleman that Daisy comes across, Mr. Giovanelli, there are many comparisons that can be made between the two male characters. At the end of the novel, Mr. Giovanelli and Winterbourne discuss Daisy over her grave with Giovanelli describing her as, “the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable…and she was the most innocent.”  This comment by Mr Giovanelli led Winterbourne to respond in shock over Daisy’s innocence. Given the social setting that the two characters are in, the reader can understand that Giovanelli is more mature and socially advanced with knowing what to say at such a sad occasion, emphasising his gentlemanly character. With this in mind, Weisbuch makes another observation claiming that, “Giovanelli is not Winterbourne’s gigolo opposite so much as his double, and finally his better.”  From this the reader can understand that the difference between the two male characters is that Giovanelli is more advanced and educated in social settings and considerate of people’s feelings and their situations. This links to the representation of female revolt and the emancipation in the literature of the period, as it is a moment in the novel where the two-male character are together without their link (Daisy) and they discuss her being and her life. In this section, the reader becomes aware of the conflicting views each gentleman had of Daisy, emphasising the complex character she was.
Sister Carrie, is a story that revolves around a young country girl, named Carrie, who moves from her small midwestern town to the big city, carrying with her the hope of her American Dream. Similarly, to Daisy Miller, Sister Carrie is centralised around the main female character (Carrie Meeber) and the two male characters with her interest (Charles H. Drouet and George W. Hurstwood). Dreiser successfully manages to explore many themes within his novel, as well as the representation of the female revolt and their role in society. “…She began to get the hand of those little things which the pretty woman who has vanity invariably adopts. In short, her knowledge of grace doubled, and with it her appearance changed, She became a girl of considerable taste.”  From this quote the reader can understand that Dreiser is illustrating the momentous scene where Carrie realises she is growing up and maturing, a pivotal moment in the novel, offering the readers insight into how it happens and the significance. This can be linked to Simone de Beauvoir’s article, The Second Sex, where she states, “One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman.”  Beauvoir is suggesting that one can distinguish sex from gender and that gender is something that is a part of an individual’s identity that is progressively developed. Carrie is key example of this idea as she is accepting her womanhood as she makes small gestures or actions that accentuate her femininity. This links in with the representation of the female revolt, as whilst Carrie is not as complex as Daisy, she still manages to accept but flaw the stereotypes of women in the nineteenth century, she is deemed to be vainer rather than shy and modest, like most women.
Within this novel, the reader can understand that women might be the cause for their own objectification whilst those objectifying aren’t at fault. “…Mrs. Vance’s manner had rather stiffened under the gaze of handsome men and elegantly dressed ladies…To stare seemed the proper and natural thing. Carrie found herself stared at and ogled….”  From this the reader can understand that Carrie is in a position where she is getting used to attention from others, and is almost learning from Mrs. Vance on how to react. Given the setting of this moment, it can be inferred that women almost welcome the attention and criticism from others. In James D. Bloom’s, Reading the Male Gaze in Literature and Culture: Studies in Erotic Epistemology, Claire Eby mentions how Dreiser, ‘“does not have a single way of depicting women; nor does he concentrate on a particular type as representative”  this suggests that Dreiser explores all characteristics and personalities of his female characters and tries to not single out a specific kind. In comparison to Daisy Miller, where the reader can see Winterbourne’s category for women. Again, this links in with the representation of women through another character’s perception and how they challenged the conventions at the time.
Another thing that readers can understand from Sister Carrie, is that the theme of class and society can play a role in the representation of females. “It was an important thing to hear one so well-positioned and powerful speaking in this manner…Here was this greatest mystery, the man of money and affairs sitting beside her, appealing to her.”  With the readers knowledge of Carrie’s many desires, more specifically to fulfil her desire for riches and success, it is clear that she received a fair amount of warning about materialistic things never amounting to happiness. However, with this in mind, the reader can see that Carrie still wishes to achieve her goals, linking to her American Dream, and believes that being in a position of wealth and power will lead her to a much happier lifestyle. This can be linked to the representation of female revolt as it explores the idea of materialism, society, and class, as wealth is often associated with people of a higher-class and social ranking.
Likewise, to Daisy Miller, Sister Carrie includes two male characters who have the interest of Carrie. Each are very different to each other, similarly to Winterbourne and Giovanelli, Drouet is portrayed as a materialist whereas Hurstwood is illustrated as a romanticist. Towards the end of the novel, it is clear that both men loved Carrie deeply but were unsuccessful at keeping her happy and satisfied. Given that Drouet is heavily focused on the finer things in life this allowed him to move on from Carrie easily, whereas Hurstwood, being more emotionally invested, gradually lost his wealth, and became a homeless beggar who eventually commit suicide. Whilst both men went through their trials and tribulations, Carrie finally achieved her American Dream of stardom, wealth and fame but realises that they do not bring her happiness. The reader can understand that the three pivotal characters in the novel have a relation to the representation of female revolt and the emancipation of literature in the period as they explore the theme of love, class and society, and femininity.
There are many similarities and differences between the two texts examined in this essay. Both Daisy Miller and Sister Carrie have a similar character list of two males to one female, involved in the storyline and competing for the female character’s heart. With Winterbourne and Giovanelli being portrayed as two gentlemen who have different natures and personalities, each wish to be with Daisy, however have conflicting opinions of her personality and character. This was seen towards the end of the novel when both gentlemen were discussing Daisy over her grave, with Giovanelli admiring her and Winterbourne hurting and blaming Giovanelli for taking Daisy her out when there was an illness spreading, leading her to die. Whereas in Sister Carrie, Drouet and Hurstwood are two different types of men, one being more high-maintenance and the other more emotionally involved and invested, therefore showing the reader the two different results in what happened next after Carrie exited their lives. As well as this, both explore the themes of society and class and the role of women in greater detail. With Daisy on her travels and coming across many people, but treating everyone the same and not different due to their social stature or class, and Carrie moving to the city with aspirations of making it big and becoming a part of the upper-class. Not only this, both prove to be independent females in their stories, showing they needn’t depend on others.
Overall, this essay has examined the many ways in which Henry James and Theodore Dreiser have explored the representation of the female revolt and the emancipation of literature in the period. Each were successful at exploring a range of themes varying from the role of women to class and wealth. In addition to this, both were successful at keeping the female character central to the story where each endured different journey’s but still challenged the conventional stereotypes of women in the nineteenth century and in a patriarchal society. The readers can understand that Daisy Miller was successful at telling the story of a care-free American on her travels where she expressed her individuality without showing too much concern about what others thought of her. And with Sister Carrie telling the story of a rising star on her journey to find stardom and achieve her personal American Dream.
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- Page 33 Hocks, Richard A. Henry James: A Study of the Short Fiction. Twayne’s Studies in Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
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- Pollack 76 – Pollak, Vivian R., ed. New Essays on Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw. The American Novel Series. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
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Gender Norms in Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daisy Miller, a stepping stone for modern feminism, is about a young American woman traveling in Europe with her mother, who encounters Frederick Winterbourne, an American living abroad. Through his novella, Henry James studies, in detail, his title character. What he discovers is Daisy Miller is unbothered by European preconceptions, whereas Frederick Winterbourne, the protagonist, is consumed by them. The broad distinction between the behaviors of Daisy and Winterbourne is that Winterbourne can act as he wishes and can encompass an independent lifestyle without objection, while Daisy can not. The novella implicitly reveals this unjust variation based solely on gender norms. While traditional critics emphasize patriarchal control, feminist readers draw out a counter-image of American womanhood, defined by freedom and breaking social constraints, which acts as an example of societies’ inability to recognize and understand feminism.
Daisy’s Defiant Actions
Set in the late 18th century, within high-class European society, Daisy Miller portrays a period where feminism was unpopular and undistinguished by society. Throughout the plot, Daisy is continuously rebuked for her defiant actions by those who neither understand nor try to recognize her progressiveness. One of the prime examples where Daisy is chastised would be her entire relationship with Mr. Giovanelli. Daisy and Giovanelli exhibit attributes that shock many of the European- accustomed Americans. They believe the acts Daisy commits are ‘reserved for the interiors of private homes’ (Wardley 15). Daisy erodes the distinctions between private and public spaces further when she elects to ‘walk about the streets of Rome’ or, rather, as she protests to Winterbourne, about the Pincio, which ”ain’t the streets” (James 70). To walk, or as the ironically named Mrs. Walker puts it, to ‘prowl’ unchaperoned will, in her opinion, ruin Daisy’s reputation (James 53). In so saying Mrs. Walker echoes a turn-of-the-century rule of thumb among members of her class that a ‘lady was simply not supposed to be seen aimlessly wandering the streets in the evening or eating alone,’ that such acts were in themselves potentially fatal forms of exposure (Vicinus 297, 218). Daisy Miller engages in what ‘American social critics called ‘public flirtation,” (Wardley 14). While such flirting constituted ‘innocent promiscuity’ (Wardley 14) by most US standards, many of the older women in the book found it shocking and nonconforming to society. This shows how the European society judges and in a sense, blames Daisy for not adhering to the social constraints placed on women. It explains how this society immediately tries to tarnish Daisy and put a scarlet letter on her chest as if she must not be spoken to. It shows how late 18th-century European societies didn’t acknowledge the feminity in Daisy’s character.
It’s important to note that Daisy Miller is told almost entirely through the perspective of Winterbourne. Although the novella mainly focuses is on Daisy, Winterbourne is the lens through which the audience perceives Daisy. Winterbourne having a ‘great relish for feminine beauty, … was addicted to observing and analyzing’ Daisy’s beauty (James 16). Winterbourne spends a lot of his time and energy, analyzing Daisy and her actions, yet he fails to comprehend her motives behind the behavior. He recognizes that Daisy does not fit the role of a ‘sophisticated Europen woman’ and assumes it is her own fault that has made her stick out. He believes her choices to be openly promiscuous are what make her an outcast. It is important to note that Daisy is only an outcast in Winterbourne’s mind and that she, herself, has not placed these tags on her. By suggesting that Daisy castaway, ‘Winterbourne has allowed himself only two possible views of Daisy, good or bad’ (Wilson and Westbrook 270). This further shows how the characters in this story are unable to recognize and identify feminism. Winterborne sees the way Daisy dresses and acts, but instead of attributing that to individuality and feminity, he assumes its because of these factors that she is unable to fit in with the rest of the women.
Winterbourne’s ignorance of Daisy’s true self becomes even brighter towards the end of the plotline. When Daisy dies, Winterbourne is sad, yet he is also relieved to be free of the confusion she has caused him. In a way, Winterborne was ‘angry with himself ‘ (James #). He spent most of the story preoccupied with ‘the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller’ (James #). After her death, Winterbourne finds himself returning to his daily routine. Mocking his return, the tale concludes Winterbourne has realized that perhaps he misjudged Daisy. Ohmann explains how, by staying abroad too long, Winterbourne ‘has become too rigid in his values’ (Ohmann 6). Winterbourne represents the assimilation to European customs, contradicting his slow realization that represents society’s failure to recognize and disregard of Daisy’s actions.
The Character of Frederick Winterbourne from Daisy Miller by Henry James
In Henry James’ Daisy Miller, Frederick Winterbourne, who was originally born in America, was raised in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was pursuing a mysterious older woman. In general, Winterbourne is a man who studies women and how they behave.
Being Charmed by Daisy
When Winterbourne first sees Daisy Miller, he is talking to her brother. Having been born an American but raised as a European, he immediately says after seeing her, “American girls are the best girls,” (385). He then begins to describe how she is dressed and is immediately charmed by her presence. Throughout the entirety of the story, Winterbourne states how pretty Daisy is every time he sees her, but is suspicious of her character because she has been involved with many men. He is constantly defending her to his aunt, Mrs. Castello, who thinks of Daisy as common. In the beginning of the story Winterbourne quotes that Daisy in his eyes, was a mixture of innocence and crudity. At first glance, she seemed as though she was into him and only him at the time. Because Daisy is an American, she lives her life the way she wants regardless of what other people think and has the right to be interested in any person she wants.
Trying to Classify Daisy
On the other hand, Winterbourne categorizes people into social classes and cares about others’ opinions simply because that is how he was brought up. Throughout the story, he constantly tries to figure out what class Daisy would fit under. As the story progresses and he follows Daisy to Rome, he begins to realize what kind of person she really is. She becomes involved with a man by the name of Mr. Giovanelli so soon after becoming involved with Winterbourne. He states, “He is almost grateful for having found the formula that is applied to Ms. Daisy Miller,” (390) This was after seeing her go off with Mr. Giovanelli. At this point in the story, he categorizes her as the type of girl who is talkative, flirtatious, and a woman who enjoys being in the company of men. It is at this part of the story where we as readers, question Winterbourne’s character and why he is judging Daisy. Just as Daisy flirts with other men, Winterbourne is constantly studying other women and their behaviors while he has feelings for her, so who is he to judge Daisy and the way that she behaves?
The Change of Opinion
In the beginning of the story, I believe that Mr. Winterbourne is a sympathetic character towards Daisy. For instance, every time Mrs. Walker and his aunt Mrs. Castello talk about their disapproval of Daisy and the Miller family, he is always quick to defend her and always tries to see the goodness in her character. He does not like it when people talk down on her and when they do, he is always by her side. Even though in the beginning of the story we think of him as judgmental towards women, we realize it is not his fault; that is just how he was raised. It is not his fault that he is always studying and analyzing women; it’s a european trait that you do not see with most Americans.
Towards the end of the story, I feel as though Winterbourne begins to have less sympathy for Daisy. At one particular moment in the story, Winterbourne runs into Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli kissing at the Colosseum. It is at that moment where Winterbourne simply cannot understand love and friendship. He does not understand why Daisy, who showed interest in him earlier on, is now showing interest in another man. This moment in the story shows exactly why Winterbourne is losing sympathy for Daisy and is slowly figuring out that Daisy is not that innocent and pure young woman that he tried to analyze. At this point in the story you would expect Winterbourne to undergo a change after seeing Daisy and Giovanelli together, then hearing of her death, but he does not change. This causes the readers to lose sympathy for him because of his thoughts at the end of the story and how quickly Winterbourne gets over Daisy Miller.
The Parallels between the Author and the Character
To me, I feel like Henry James has identified with Frederick Winterbourne because they share similar stories and similar backgrounds. Similar to how Winterbourne was born in America and was raised in Europe, Henry James was born in America and spent the rest of his life overseas in London and Switzerland. Throughout the story, James is trying to send a message to the readers through Winterbourne and his actions. He is trying to educate the readers about the differences between the American culture and the European culture through an American girl Daisy, and a European man Winterbourne. I believe James tells the story from his point of view because he can relate to Winterbourne’s character.
James is known as a realistic writer, meaning he does not write far-fetched non-fiction stories. The events that happen in Winterbourne’s story are real life situations, such as analyzing women and trying to figure out what kind of person they really are, and having sympathy with others. James does a good job of using those examples to help the readers understand the life of a European from Winterbourne’s eyes and why he thinks the way he thinks.
The Comparison of Edna Pontellier and Daisy Miller
Edna Pontellier and Daisy Miller, two women of the Victorian era that wish to live their lives on their own terms not restricted by the societal norms they find themselves expected to follow. Edna is expected to follow the “Southern” way of life while Daisy is pressured to follow the traditional “European” young woman’s role. These two women defy the social conventions, follow their own paths and in the end find release in their deaths.
Defying Social Conventions
The social convention that Edna had the most trouble with was that of the mother-woman role defined as “women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels”. (Chopin 554) Edna was not able to relinquish herself to fit into this idyllic mold. Daisy Miller also had difficulty conforming herself into the preconceived picture of a proper young lady of her period as evidenced by her statement “I have always had a great deal of gentlemen’s society”. (James 416) This is quite contrary to the behavior of a proper “European” young lady.
Following Their Own Paths
Edna and Daisy both decide to travel a path that is not “normal” to their societies. Daisy and her fondness for a great deal of gentlemen’s society; gathers up “half-a-dozen of the regular Roman fortune-hunters” and travels about to people’s houses with them. (James 429) No self-respecting European young lady would behave in such a manner. Edna’s path leads her to retain a “little four-room house” (Chopin 610) and move out of the family home to gain her independence. Abandoning her husband and children is a path that was not generally accepted in her society.
Finding Release in Their Deaths
Both of these women escape the condemnation of their respective societies in the release of their lives. Daisy succumbs to a fever that she contracts due to her refusal to conform to conventional wisdom and avoid the night air of the Colosseum and the Roman Fever. (James 448) This was as self-inflicted a death as any blatant suicide. Edna obtained her release through a more deliberate action of drowning herself in the ocean. (Chopin 639)
These two young women seem to be living out Hamlet’s soliloquy of whether it is nobler to accept their perceived “outrageous” fortune or to oppose it. They each chose to oppose the conventions of their time and seek their own fulfillment. Neither accepted the role the society they were in; Edna did not become “Southern mother-woman” and Daisy did not become a “European young lady”. Each of their untimely deaths gave them their final release from their struggle.
- Levine, R. (2017). The Norton anthology of American literature. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton.
The Comparison of Daisy Miller and Huck Finn
Mark Twain and Henry James both had the idea of the American ideals at the time of writing both of their novels about two completely different people but go through similar situations of not wanting to listen to society about how they should act. Huckleberry deals with how to help Jim escape from slavery and Daisy dealing with how people try to tell her what to do and how to act in upper-class European society. In both texts Daisy Miller and Huckleberry Finn show signs of asking moral questions along with learning how they can live in a world where their individual views can be accepted. (Thesis)
Throughout the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, Huck struggles with the idea of not showing his individuality and decides to breakout to help Jim escape from his slave owner. First of all, Huck tests the rules of society when he helps Jim escape St. Petersburg, Missouri and helps him find his family. “Well, I warn’t long making him understand I warn’t dead. I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn’t lonesome now. I told him I warn’t afraid of him telling the people where I was. I talked along, but he only set there and looked at me; never said nothing” (Twain, 31). This is significant for Huck and Jims relationship growth through the beginning when Huck takes on the challenge of helping Jim out of slave country. “Well, it’s a blame ridicklous way, en I down’ want to hear no mo’ ‘bout it. Hey ain’ no sense in it. Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do” (Twain, 60). Second of all, Jim has to live on the edge until he is free because he doesn’t know if Huck will turn him in or if he will help him to his freedom. “Well, I b’lieve you, Huck. I — I run off. Jim! But mind, you said you wouldn’t tell — you know you said you wouldn’t tell, Huck. Well, I did. I said I wouldn’t, and I’ll stick to it. Honest injun I will” (Twain, 32). This makes him very nervous especially when Tom catches up with them when towards the end of the novel and starts to be Tom. Jim has a problem with this since he doesn’t really know and trust Tom especially since it is his life in the hands of an upper-class privileged 13 year old.
Well, den, dis is de way it look to me, Huck. Ef it wuz HIM dat ‘uz bein’ sot free, en one er de boys wuz to git shot, would he say, ‘Go on en save me, nemmine ’bout a doctor f’r to save dis one?’ Is dat like Mars Tom Sawyer? Would he say dat? You BET he wouldn’t! WELL, den, is JIM gywne to say it? No, sah — I doan’ budge a step out’n dis place ‘dout a DOCTOR, not if it’s forty year!” (Twain, 207).
Third of all, towards the end of the novel there was a real sense of trust and love from Huck about Jim after he leaves since he is free man. Huck has a sense of thinking that everyone is white on the inside, this is Huck being innocent and thinking that everyone is the same on the inside even if they looked different on the outside. “I know he was white inside, and I reckoned he’d say what he did say — so it was alright” (Twain, 207). In conclusion, Huck Finn breaks out and shows his individualism when he decides to help Jim escape from St. Petersburg so he could not only find his family but become a new man since he wasn’t bound to anyone as a slave anymore.
Throughout the short story “Daisy Miller”, Winterbourne struggles with Daisy’s innocence and questioning whether she is in fact innocent or is it just an act. Firstly, right after Winterbourne meets Daisy and her whole family he starts to wonder if she is completely innocent or is it an act that she is putting on. “Certainly she was very charming, but how extraordinarily communicative and how tremendously easy! Miss Daisy Miller looked extremely innocent. Some people had told him that after all American girls were exceedingly innocent, and others had told him that after all they weren’t” (James, 15). Winterbourne is speaking about what he has heard about American girls and what they pretend to be and starts to have doubts about Daisy. Secondly, throughout the story Winterbourne asks his aunt Mrs. Costello for advice when they are speaking about Daisy for the first time and wondering what girls like her expect from a man.
“I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake. You are too innocent. My dear aunt, I am not so innocent” (James, 22).
Winterbourne is thrown off from Mrs. Costello saying that he is innocent when he feels that he isn’t as innocent as she is making him out to be. Thirdly, towards the end of the story when Daisy is about to go to Rome with Gionavelli, Winterbourne and her get into an argument about her behaviour with guys, “I’m afraid your habits are those of a ruthless flirt. Of course they are! I’m a fearful frightful flirt! Did you ever hear of a nice girl that wasn’t? But I suppose you’ll tell me now I’m not a nice girl” (James, 61). In this scene Daisy is telling Winterbourne what she thinks about people trying to tell her what she can and can’t do just because she is a woman. Daisy shows her individualism when she is trying to be her own person but she has people telling her what isn’t allowed in upper-class society. Fourthly, after Daisy’s death Winterbourne and Gionavelli are together and speaking about Daisy and how she was different from other American girls. “She was the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable. Also — naturally! — the most innocent. The most innocent? The most innocent! Why the devil, did you take her to that fatal place? For myself I had no fear; and she she did what she liked” (James, 79-80). By this point Winterbourne is convinced that Daisy was not an innocent untouched American girl and is mad that she wouldn’t listen to anyone about not going to Rome with Gionavelli and that she didn’t know very well. To conclude, Winterbourne struggles with Daisy’s innocence and not following the rules of society with her not changing who she was just to fit into upper-class society.
The Similarities between the Characters
In both of these novels by Mark Twain and Henry James they share many similarities between the two protagonists Huck Finn and Daisy Miller with how they want to be able to separate themselves from the norms of society. First, Huck and Daisy are alike in the way that they want to break away from tradition and show their individualism.
“I was sorry to her Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, Let up on mr — it ain’t too late, yet — I’ll paddle ashore at the first light, and tell. I felt east, and happy, and light as a feather, right off. All my troubles was gone” (Twain, 67).
Huck shows his individualism by helping Jim into freedom since it was not common that white boys would help slaves get out of slave country. Huck shows that he doesn’t want to be like everyone else since he hasn’t lived the average normal life as he was taken away from his father and told he had to live with Widow Douglas than his Aunt Sally. “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (Twain, 220). Daisy deals with similar problems as Huck as she doesn’t want to follow the rule of high society. Daisy also doesn’t like being told what to do and how she is suppose to act. “I’ve never allowed a gentler to dictate to me or to interfere with anything I do. I think that’s just where your mistake ha come in, You should sometimes listen to a gentleman — the right one” (James, 49). Winterbourne and Mrs. Miller have a conversation about Daisy and Giovanelli being together and he is starting to wonder about Daisy and where her priorities are when it comes to men.
“She’s gone out somewhere with Mr. Giovanelli. She’s always going round with Mr. Giovanelli. I’ve noticed they’re intimate indeed, Oh it seems as if they couldn’t live without each other! Well, he’s a real gentleman anyhow. I guess I have the joke on Daisy — that she must be engaged!” (James, 69).
Second, Huck and Daisy have the same type of mind set that they are going to do what they want even if it isn’t what society wants them to do. Daisy deals with this when people think that she should act one way when she doesn’t want to as she whats to be her own person with no rules.
“The news that Daisy Miller was surrounded by half a dozen wonderful mustaches checked Winterbourne’s impulse to go straightway to see her. The image of a very pretty girl looking out of an old Roman window and asking herself urgently when Mr. Winterbourne would arrive” (James, 40).
Huck deals with his alcoholic father and being from the lower-class when his best friend Tom Sawyer is from the upper-class so he looks at life with Jim on the run a little different than others would. “Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it” (Twain, 49). In conclusion, Twain and James’ main protagonists share similarities with how they don’t want to conform to society and show their individualism.
To conclude, both Huck Finn and Daisy Miller share the views of not wanting to change who they are even though society is wanting them to be just like every other teenage boy and girl when they just want to be themselves and show off their individualism. Both Daisy Miller and Huck Finn show signs of asking moral questions throughout both of their stories while they both learn how they are able to show their individualism while living in society.
- James, Henry. Daisy Miller and Other Stories. Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.
- Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dover Productions, 1994
The Character Analysis of Daisy Miller in a Novel by Henry James
Daisy Miller appeared to be a flirtatious enigma to those around her. Society speculated about the inner workings of her character, about her motivations, about her intentions. Winterbourne was viewed mainly as someone who ‘played it safe’, but also as someone who was interested in women, and therefore always seemed a little bit ‘off’. Although, he was merely an observer and admirer in the story of Daisy’s life. It can be said that “man’s character is his fate”, that the outcome and effects of your life are proportional to who you are deep down. In ‘Daisy Miller’, by Henry James, this statement is shown to be correct; Daisy’s character does correlate to circumstances behind her death at the end, and to her ‘legacy’ after death; In addition, Winterbourne’s ‘fate’ of returning to Geneva with indifference corresponds to his personality as well.
The first impression one forms of Daisy is one of excitement. Even her name “Daisy” is an indicator of the freshness of spring, in contrast to the cold of “Winter”-bourne. Daisy is first described as “pretty” (pg 7), and then “beautiful” (pg 8); furthermore, she is wearing an all white outfit with frills and flounces, white likely being a symbol of purity. On page 8, when Winterbourne forms his first impression of Daisy, he describes her as “honest”, “fresh”, and “delicate”. Even from the beginning of the novel, we get the impression that Daisy is simple and innocent, whose character is reflected in the way she passes away, and in the events beforehand. This is apparent in the way she dies, and in the circumstances surrounding her death. Firstly, she is buried in a “little protestant cemetery” and “beneath the cypresses and spring flowers” (pg 63). These descriptions of her final resting place, her “fate”, are exactly as her character is portrayed throughout the book. Being in a small cemetery reflects her simplicity, cypress represent mourning, and the spring flowers represent a part of her bright personality. Therefore, her funeral reflects who she was in life. At Daisy’s funeral, she was regarded as the “most beautiful…most amiable… most innocent” (pg 64) by Giovanelli; part of her fate is how she will be remembered by those who knew her, and this aspect of her fate certainly reflects her character.
Even before Daisy’s death, through the circumstances that lead to it, we get a sense of how character leads to a certain fate. She catches the Roman fever out of a desire to stay out with Giovanelli at the Colosseum, to “see the Colosseum by moonlight” (pg 62). Moonlight represents Daisy’s sense of adventure; she is not afraid of the moonlight, rather she embraces it and delights is staying out late. When Winterbourne spots her with Giovanelli, even more about character is revealed: we can see that even up the her end, she remained a nonconformist through being her regular, flirty self, despite society’s (and, in this case, Winterbourne’s) protests. Her fate, and her final moments, were all heavily influenced by character. Furthermore, Daisy is talking to Giovanelli about the Christian martyrs, further placing emphasis on another aspect of her character: her uniqueness in a society that longed to quell her spirit. In a way, she died a martyr of free-spiritedness, in a time when she represented “everything that [was] not done” (pg 44): the place where Daisy received her fate was definitely a place that solidifies much about who she was.
Another part of Daisy’s fate is the way society chose to view her, and talk about her, after she was gone. Daisy was always “commented upon” (pg 62), referred to as “ruining herself” (pg 42), and as “common” (pg 17); yet she payed these naysayers no mind, and kept being as open and outgoing as she was before traveling to Europe and receiving criticism. Just as she payed no mind to the pompous people around her, she payed no mind to the rebuke of Winterbourne prior to her death. In addition, a “number larger than scandal excited by the young lady’s career would have led you to expect” (pg 63) attended her funeral- showing that in death, society was still interested in Daisy, the same way as they were during her life. Being the object of gossip- and the opposite of stiff society- was a part of her character, and is shown through her fate.
Winterbourne’s fate, his return to Geneva, and his return to the exact lifestyle he had before meeting Daisy in Vevey, reveal much about his character. Winterbourne used his final conversation with Daisy to tell her to do the “right” thing. His fate in the eyes of Daisy shows us that as a character, he exists to observe and judge Daisy and to ‘play it safe’ with the people around him. During his time at the Colosseum, he attempted to be ‘classical’ by reciting poetry at night by the Colosseum, but he changed his mind and decided to be sensible by avoiding the fever; these final moments before talking to Daisy for the last time are a part of his fate, and reveal him to be someone who is deeply rooted in history, but also in practicality. As a product of these traits, he is a very boring, predictable person who returns to the exact same state in life as he had prior to meeting Daisy. He doesn’t grow at all as a character- and that is emphasized by his fate. During the summer following Daisy’s death, Winterbourne visits his aunt and confides in her that he blames himself a little for Daisy’s death because he misinterprets Daisy’s desires. This is due to his need to conform; Winterbourne guesses that she would have liked the “esteem” (pg 64) that he could have given her, which is such a part of his character (as seen in the beginning of the novel by his reference to having ‘no enemies’- pg 4), and not at all part of her life. He reveals more about himself than he does about her with his judgement, and it proves that his fate is to remain the stiff and shallow man that he was throughout the novel. At the very end, Winterbourne’s final fate is to return to Geneva: once again to study, once again to meet a woman. This is the exact same situation he was in at the beginning of the book (pg 4), and shows that his fate emphasizes his lack of change.
In conclusion, Daisy’s free-spirited nature is reflected in her final interactions, her death, her funeral, and the posthumous opinions of those around her. Winterbourne’s lack of freedom and personality is seen is his fate of returning to the same situation he was in at the beginning of the book, and in his final interactions with Daisy. Through the many parallels between character and fate, we can clearly see that in ‘Daisy Miller’, the quote “A man’s character is his fate” is resound
Reasons and Conditions of Daisy Miller’s Social Downfall
Daisy Miller’s Downfall
Daisy Miller’s downfall is the result of her refusal to adapt to the social customs of the countries she is in, her unwillingness to listen to others, and her childish arrogance. All of these reasons are caused by Daisy’s own actions, and she is solely responsible for her social downfall.
Daisy Miller is an American girl on a tour of Europe with her family. Not too long after Daisy’s brother meets a man named Winterbourne, Daisy and Winterbourne go on a tour of a local castle together, with no supervision from anybody in Daisy’s family. Winterbourne gets the feeling that Daisy is flirting with him. Later in the book, he learns that Daisy is flirting with other men, too; flirting in Europe was not extremely common and almost unheard of, and her actions have become a bit of a scandal to those around her. One of Winterbourne’s friends in Rome, Mrs. Walker, tries telling Daisy that she is being unreasonable and acting improperly. Shortly after, Mrs. Walker has a conversation with Winterbourne and lists everything that Daisy has done, saying she is “flirting with any man she could pick up; sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing all the evening with the same partners; receiving visits at eleven o’clock at night” (44). Daisy is flustered hearing this; she does not believe that she is doing anything wrong because what she is doing is perfectly normal in America, where she is from. In Europe, it is scandalous to be seen with so many different men and going out alone. Daisy could have taken this advice to heart and changed her behavior, but she instead decides to resent those who give her this advice. This leads to her becoming a social pariah, and she becomes vilified by the people around her, which only drives her further towards Mr. Giovanelli, her most recent friendship, and her social downfall.
Being in an unfamiliar place, one would think that it would be in Daisy’s best interest to listen to the advice of others around her. However, Daisy does not take much, if any, advice from those around her for several reasons. In a conversation between Mrs. Walker and Winterbourne, the two are discussing possible ways to help Daisy and get her to stop acting the way that she does. Mrs. Walker suggests that she and Winterbourne “ask her to get in [to a carriage], to drive her about here for half-an-hour, so that the world may see she is not running absolutely wild, and then take her safely home” (42). Mrs. Walker knew that this would help to quell any rumors or gossip and Daisy, and Winterbourne agreed, although he acknowledged it would be a bit dismal. Daisy, however, does not listen to this, and refuses to get into the carriage. Mrs. Walker then asks her “should you prefer being thought a very reckless girl?” (43). Daisy still refuses to listen to anybody around her; she continues to cling to her own views of who she should see and how she should act around them. Had Daisy entered the carriage, those around her would have seen that she is more than just an American girl flirting with all of the men around her, but that she is also able to control herself and behave properly, which would have stalled any social decline or even slightly elevated her socially.
The main reason for Daisy’s downfall, both socially and biologically, is her childish arrogance. Daisy, as mentioned before, does not take criticism or the advice of others well, even if those giving her advice are trying to protect her. She clings to her American mindset and standards; her life is dictated by them, rather than the customs of the places she is visiting. Daisy becomes a bit of an outcast because of her actions, but she is still close to Mr. Giovanelli. Daisy has Mr. Giovanelli take her to the Roman Colosseum, a place that is known for housing malaria. Winterbourne decides to pass by the Colosseum and notices Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli. Winterbourne informs them that they are in danger of catching malaria, or “Roman fever”, as Winterbourne refers to it. Mr. Giovanelli leaves to ready the carriage so they could leave, and Winterbourne tries to have Daisy take pills to help prevent Roman fever. Daisy replies “I don’t care whether I have Roman fever or not!” (61). Shortly after, Daisy became ill and died. Winterbourne cared about Daisy and wanted the best for her, even if he had to be rude or blunt to get his point across. Daisy didn’t want to listen to him, though. Had Daisy swallowed her pride, acknowledged that Winterbourne was right, and taken the pills that would have prevented her illness, she would more than likely have survived and been able to live the way she wanted to, even if it meant continuing to be an outcast and constantly receive judgement from those around her.
Daisy Miller refused to abandon her own customs and rejected the customs of the countries that she was visiting, did not listen to the advice of those around her with more experience and familiarity, and was unable to abandon her pride and chose to arrogantly believe that what she believed and felt was best for her. This led to her social downfall, which was caused solely by her actions.
Daisy’s Ghost: A Feminist Reading of “Daisy Miller”
Daisy’s Ghost: A Feminist Reading of Daisy Miller
The novel Daisy Miller is set in the late 18th century, within high class European society. In that time period, feminism was misunderstood and even unrecognized by both genders and varying classes. Often, a female feminist, such as a writer,would be accused of plagiarism for her work, critics assuming no woman could create such original ideas. In other cases female authors would use pen names to disguise their identity and so avoid such dilemmas. Women were deemed void of independent ideals and originality in general. They were assumed to be subservient to the both their husbands and the traditions and values of that time. This is how the women in Daisy Miller are portrayed, and who directly contrast Daisy herself.Shortly after Daisy Miller was written, several literary magazines offered their criticisms on Daisy. In 1879, one in particular responded in a way typical and expected of that time period, and reflected exactly the characters in Daisy Miller who participate in the chastisement of her actions. Lipponcott’s Magazine wrote, “Miss Daisy Miller, in almost any circle of society in any city here, would be looked upon with a pity akin to contempt” (What’s in a Name? James’ “Daisy Miller, Monteiro 252).Throughout the plot, Daisy is constantly reprimanded for her rebellious actions by those who neither understand nor recognize her progressiveness. In the the novel Daisy Miller, Daisy’s death acts as an example of societies inability to recognize and understand feminism, and is made evident through character development, symbolism, and the conflict throughout.
Daisy Miller is told almost exclusively through the perspective of Winterbourne, a young american gentleman who has lived most of his life in the city of Geneva. Calculating and observant, Winterbourne spends the majority of the novel analyzing Daisy and her movements. Although the focus of the novel is on Daisy, Winterbourne is the consciousness through which we perceive Daisy, and therefore the conflict. It is significant that the character through which we perceive Daisy is one struggling to understand her. Winterbourne often notes Daisy’s beauty, her graceful movements, and dress-”He had great relish for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and analyzing it;and as regards to this young lady’s face he made several observations”- yet he fails to comprehend her motives behind the socially erratic behavior consistently displayed (James 16).He seeks a formula, a way to categorize Daisy into an understandable item. She does not however, fit in, and so Winterbourne is left assuming it is her own wrongdoing and inherent fault of Daisy that has made her thus so. “Winterbourne has allowed himself only two possible views of Daisy, good or bad, which does not suggest that he has learned to make discriminations in the “immense sensibility” of human experience” (Daisy Miller and the Metaphysician, Wilson and Westbrook 270). When Daisy dies, Winterbourne is sad, yet almost relieved to be free of the confusion she has proffered him.”She was a young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect…. He felt angry with himself that he had bothered so much about the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller” ( James 141). With the occurrence of Daisy’s death Winterbourne can go back to his “studying” and normal way of life, the normalcy being a life coinciding with society and its traditions and values, without the stress and distraction of Daisy’s behavior. He realizes however, and too late, that he misjudged Daisy- yet he does not change. “…He knows he has wronged Daisy because he has stayed too long abroad, has become too rigid in his values. Yet his knowledge does not change him The authorial voice concludes the tale by mocking Winterbourne’s return” (Daisy Miller: A Study of Changing Intentions, Ohmann 6). As Winterbourne represents the assimilation to European customs, his tardy revelation represents societies failure and disregard of Daisy’s independent, progressive actions.
The other man in Daisy’s life is captured in the charming and practiced Italian, Giovanelli. Somewhat of a vague persona, he comes from unknown origins and is properly characterized as acting as such:“Giovanelli chattered and jested and made himself wonderfully agreeable. It was true, that, if he was an imitation, the imitation was brilliant” (James 96). Playing the role of Daisy’s casual love interest, Giovanelli represents the flirtatious native, and acts as a symbol of Daisy’s rebellion. “Daisy was willing to rely on her own judgment and so befriend Giovanelli in defiance of society…” (Daisy Miller, Western Hero, Coffin 273). It’s also significant to note the similarities between Daisy and Giovanelli. Both natural flirts, they’re not afraid to do as they wish, and yet hold themselves in high regard. Which is what perhaps draws them together.“It is only the fortune hunter Giovanelli who, observing society with some objectivity, is able to sense that Daisy is ‘the most innocent’ of creatures who simply does what she likes” (Coffin 273). Giovanelli certainly seems more aware of the implications of his behavior, for his actions are practiced and made “agreeable.” “He must have known, without needing any information from Mrs. Walker, that Daisy’s reputation would be injured if she strolled with him on the Pincio” (Wilson and Westbrook 273). However, Giovanelli is simply distrusted, while Daisy is consistently chastened and persuaded to change her behavior. As a female, her actions are not marginally humored by her society. Giovanelli on the other hand, is at least understood . “It is not the familiar foreign body, however, that threatens American integrity; Giovanelli, as Mrs. Walker proves, is easily studied” (Reassembling Daisy Miller, Wardley 246). He has a place in society, albeit not a wholly respectable one. He simply continues on his life, like Winterbourne, while Daisy dies “…the victim of rigid social conventions” ( The Revision of Daisy Miller, Dunbar 311). An example to societies incapability to understand and accept her actions.
Another, smaller man in Daisy’s life is her younger brother, Randolph. Winterbourne’s first impression of this young american is one capturing the boisterousness and boldness of the stereotypical american male. “‘Will you give me a lump of sugar?’ he asked in a sharp, hard little voice- a voice immature and yet, somehow, not young” (James 8). Some of Winterbourne’s first comments involve Randolph’s schooling, for his behavior and knowledge appears to Winterbourne erratic. Randolph acts as an opening for Daisy, and his persona is mirrored in that of Daisy’s. “Both are in a primal state of development. Both follow their inclinations. For his role as the one who introduces Daisy to Winterbourne, Randolph is specifically appropriate” (Wilson and Westbrook 276). Another significance of Winterbourne meeting Daisy’s younger brother first is that Winterbourne is now expecting Daisy to be “an american girl” (James 9). His view is already biased; before he meets Daisy Winterbourne has already formed an opinion.
In addition to symbolic men in Daisy Miller, the women, excluding Daisy herself, act as supporting characters in the novels conflict and development. Beginning with Daisy’s mother, Mrs. Miller, a vague, somewhat weak and ineffectual mother, her presence isn’t often physically noted. This lack of motherly voice contributes to the notion of Daisy’s death being one of inevitability. With no strong motherly figure, Daisy’s symbolism of innocence is exemplified. “Mrs. Miller’s happy indifference to her daughter’s position provides a clue to Daisy’s classic nonchalance” (Archetypes of American Innocence: Lydia Blood and Daisy Miller. Kar 33). Even her mother fails to understand her, from lack of trying of from lack of general ability, the conclusion remains the same- Daisy’s death occurs while her mother is represented by a somewhat silly, sidelined, and idle figure. Mrs. Walker, a strict European woman, chastises Mrs. Miller, saying “Did you ever see anything so imbecile as her mother?” (James 98). Daisy’s mother does not reprimand her daughter, because she sees no fault in her actions, she is not aware of the social blasphemy Daisy is committing and the ostracism she is receiving.
In contrast, Daisy is hounded for her actions by the other two women present in the novel, Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Costello is Winterbourne’s aunt and represents the ideal and respectable woman of late 1800’s Europe. She is refined, proper, and properly opposite all that Daisy embodies. “Her principles of value have long been set-she need only apply them” (Ohmann 5). Mrs. Costello is constantly engaging in the severe criticism of Daisy’s behavior, she is baffled that anyone could behave so vulgarly. She states, “I am an old woman, but I am not too old- thank Heaven- to be shocked!” (James 40). Society accepts and even reveres Mrs. Costello, while ostracizing Daisy. Mrs. Costello is right, and so as her opposite, Daisy is wrong. It’s made inevitable that Daisy dies, because Mrs. Costello, representing society, lives on. “In the social evaluation with which we are concerned here, the urge towards death appears motivated by the exigencies of the victim’s relation to society: society requires the sacrifice of its opponents” (Daisy Miller, Tradition, and the European Heroine, Deakin 46). Daisy’s behavior is condemned without a trial, and is met with death.
The other woman in Daisy’s life is Mrs. Walker, who differs from Mrs. Costello in the way that she appears moderately concerned for Daisy’s well being. Although she is strict in her ways and does chastise her, it’s not with the same vehement energy as Mrs. Costello. It is notable also that Mrs. Walker is a widow, an independent woman living away from her home country in Europe. She is strong and voices her opinion, yet her opinion is parallel to the rigidity of European customs. This does not bode well for Daisy, as she is alone in her rebellious actions. Mrs. Walker is well-aware of the social customs, as an assimilated American, and tries time and again to dissuade Daisy of these actions. Some comments include: “I don’t think it’s safe, my dear,” “It is really too dreadful…that girl must not do this sort of thing. She must not walk here with you two men. Fifty people have noticed her” (James 86, 98). She too is convinced Daisy’s actions are horribly vulgar, and although she attempts to right Daisy’s way with scoldings, she eventually condemns Daisy to her fate.
Daisy Miller is fraught with symbolism, from the characters listed previously to the setting and various landmarks. Foremost, there is the symbolism of Daisy, in both her name and demeanor. Daisy is a common flower that grows wildly, often in the bright colors yellow or white and associated with cheerfulness and joy. The surname Miller is also extremely common. “And in the choice of the name, Daisy, he may have suggested her simplicity and her spontaneous beauty” (Ohmann 9). And so Daisy, by name alone, is symbolic of commonality, cheerfulness, and a sort of wildness. These characteristics are reflective of her naive and rebellious personality, and supports her as a symbol of innocence and as a character who demonstrates an unwillingness to assimilate to the high values and expectations of European society. “‘I don’t think I want to know what you mean. … I don’t think I should like it’” (James 102).
Furthermore, “Daisy comprehends only dimly the ideal of freedom which she symbolizes” (Deakon 56). Because of her neglect to conform,”society must punish her; it must, one could even say if he sees her death as something more than accident, claim her as a victim” (Deakon 56). In contrast, the name Winterbourne, with the root winter, connotes coldness and frigidness.This juxtaposition of simply the names of Daisy and Winterbourne symbolize the stark differences present in their characters. Namely the differences in how they conduct themselves, with Winterbourne willfully assimilating to European customs and Daisy blatantly disregarding them. Winterbourne embodies society, and its inability to recognize and understand feminism, which is Daisy Miller. “Daisy baffles Winterbourne…with her lack of complexity and the openness of her motives. He, like other sophisticates, cannot read simplicity. This same inability, of course, also causes Roman society to reject Daisy” (Coffin 273). Daisy is certainly not the perfect feminist, but whether she is fully aware of her actions or is blatantly unaware and innocent, is irrelevant to the ultimate effect of her being different, and societies inability to accept or even understand her.
Another symbols of Daisy’s death as a loose martyr for feminism is the Colosseum. In ancient Rome this monumental piece of architecture was often used to entertain the masses through gladiator fights, where thousands of individuals, against their will, were murdered for the sake of entertainment. It embodies a place of sacrificed innocence. Daisy’s reasoning to attend the Colosseum is that of simplicity and innocence, stating, “I was bound to see the Colosseum by moonlight- I wouldn’t have wanted to go home without that…”(James 144). On these deceptive grounds is where Daisy catches malaria, or as it’s referred to in the novel, “roman fever”. “But the Colosseum is dangerous too, because here lurks malaria, a malignancy mysterious and inseparable from the beauty and charm of its environment” (Deakon 54). Daisy’s end is both symbolized and foreshadowed in her visit to this monument of sacrifice and death.
The setting of Daisy Miller also contributes to Daisy’s death being that of an example. Overall, the setting is in Europe, already foreshadowing the ostracism of Daisy. For she and her family are not in their home environment, it is foreign to them, just as their actions, specifically Daisy’s, are foreign to those Americans assimilated to the European customs.”To place Daisy Miller in this European tradition is to shift the interpretation of Daisy’s character from the conventional emphasis on her innocence to her equally significant rebellious independence. Her social ostracism and death become the pattern one would expect from the champion of and martyr to freedom” (Deakon 45). More specifically, there is Rome, where Daisy finds herself in the later half of the novel. Rome, as the birthplace of a great and glorious civilization, was also one of great loss and decay. This contrast is mirrored in Daisy’s behavior, compared to that of high society European traditions. Furthermore, Daisy is the epitome of youth and innocence, while Rome is a sophisticated and refined place. Daisy stands out like a sore thumb, and is duly condemned from the moment she stepped into the place.
Daisy Miller is a novel that was monumental at its time, and still has an impact on readers today. Feminism is now alive and well, yet evidence of its first beginnings can be found in the life and death of Daisy Miller. Her death symbolizes societies unwillingness to see and to accept feminism. Her example is rightfully summarized as, “James thus ended Daisy Miller, but her ghost lived on.” The implications of her actions, all her blatant rebellions, innocent disregard for social customs, and “vulgar” flirtations, are met with contempt and disapproval, and yet she is recognized now, finally having her place in society, as a young feminist.
Works CitedCoffin, Tristram P. “Daisy Miller, Western Hero.” Western Folklore 17.4 (1958): 273-5. Web.
Deakin, Motley F. “Daisy Miller, Tradition, and the European Heroine.” Comparative Literature Studies 6.1 (1969): 45-59. Web.
Dunbar, Viola R. “The Revision of Daisy Miller.” Modern Language Notes 65.5 (1950): 311-7. Web.
Hoxie, Elizabeth F. “Mrs. Grundy Adopts Daisy Miller.” The New England Quarterly 19.4 (1946): 474-84. Web.
James, Henry, and Geoffrey Moore. Daisy Miller. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986. Print.
Kar, Annette. “Archetypes of American Innocence: Lydia Blood and Daisy Miller.” American Quarterly 5.1 (1953): 31-8. Web.
Monteiro, George. “What’s in a Name? James’ “Daisy Miller”.” American Literary Realism 39.3 (2007): 252-3. Web.
Ohmann, Carol. “Daisy Miller: A Study of Changing Intentions.” American Literature 36.1 (1964): 1-11. Web.
Wardley, Lynn. “Reassembling Daisy Miller.” American Literary History 3.2 (1991): 232-54. Web.
Wilson, Frankie, and Max Westbrook. “Daisy Miller and the Metaphysician.” American Literary Realism, 1870-1910 13.2 (1980): 270-9. Web.
American Illness in Daisy Miller: A Study
Before the revelations of modern medicine, illness of any kind was a highly mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon that was accompanied by little hope for a solution to ease or eliminate the ailment. During this time when no one knew the origin of most diseases, let alone how to cure them or take preventative measures, sicknesses of varying severity carried a lot more significance than they do today due to their unexplainable nature, thereby making them a valuable literary tool in terms of allegorical and metaphorical contexts. Henry James was one of many authors of the 19th century who employed illness as a meaningful symbol juxtaposed to the overlying conflict in his writing, most notably in his acclaimed 1878 novella, Daisy Miller: A Study. This story tells of several American characters in a European setting, some expatriates and some vacationers, all with varying degrees of familiarity with and acceptance of European sociocultural norms. The conflict focuses on the clash between European and American social customs, instigated by the promiscuous behavior of the free-spirited and strong-willed Daisy Miller and her interactions with American expatriates such as Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker as she travels Europe with her mother and younger brother. Several of these Americans face difficulties with their health just as they face difficulties with European society. Those at odds with the restrictive and elitist setting find themselves in physical distress, and only those who have fully assimilated to the culture and its expectations escape illness. Therefore, in James’ Daisy Miller, similar to the way the body feels the adverse effects when it rejects a virus, the incursion of poor health reflects a resistance to the conservative European environment.
The first and most significant example of this reflection is the sudden tragic death of Daisy Miller due to Roman fever, otherwise known as malaria. Even the name of the disease is highly appropriate – malaria translates literally as “bad air”, as it was thought to come from poisonous nighttime climate. While Daisy suffers physically from the harmful vapors, she also suffers from the “bad air” of those who know of her and make her subject of noxious gossip and distaste (Foster). The fever that kills Daisy is very much like “the overheated state that makes her frantic to join the elite (“We’re dying to be exclusive,” she says early on) while at the same time causing the disapproval of the Europeanized Americans who reside permanently in Rome at every turn” (Foster). Daisy is so quintessentially American that with no will to adapt to the customs of European society, she increasingly becomes the object of scandal because of her coquettish ways and open affections for multiple gentlemen. In fact, she blatantly denounces the ways of European women when Mrs. Walker, a Europeanized American and friend of both Winterbourne and the Miller family, begs her in cold fury to leave the company of her Italian companion Mr. Giovanelli, with whom Daisy went to walk with alone in the evening. Mrs. Walker demands that Daisy get into the carriage with her and exclaims that Daisy is ruining her reputation through her reckless actions (James 446). Daisy later confides to Winterburne, “the young ladies of this country have a dreadfully pokey time of it, so far as I can learn; I don’t see why I should change my habits for them” (James 450), thus affirming her opposition to proper European ways. It is this sentiment that heightens considerably as Daisy becomes the talk of the town at the disproval of all those who appreciate European principles for young women and ultimately seals her fate; because Daisy never waivers in her rebellion against the cultural expectations and remains stolid in her own beliefs, she is the one who suffers the most due to illness and eventually succumbs to it.
Though she is the most prominent example, Daisy is not the only American character to contrast with the Old World setting and experience illness. Her mother, Mrs. Miller, is neurotic about her many ailments and revels in telling of them to whoever will listen. She is said to suffer from “dyspepsia”, and, as Daisy claims she never sleeps, she often complains of fatigue, which often causes her to stay inside their hotel for extended periods of time to avoid her unnerving and unfamiliar surroundings during their vacation. These symptoms mark Mrs. Miller’s inability to cope with and behave within European standards, and she even blames the European climate outright for her discomfort – “I suffer from the liver…I think it’s the climate, it’s less bracing than Schenectady” (James 440). Likewise, Mrs. Miller’s son and Daisy’s young brother Randolph also declares he has dyspepsia, and shares his mother’s opinion in blaming their location for the loss of his teeth, although a normal occurrence for a boy his age, by saying “It’s this old Europe. It’s the climate that makes them come out. In America they didn’t come out” (James 422). The members of Daisy’s family experience these minor afflictions because their very being is in opposition with what was to be expected of upper class people in Europe. Mrs. Miller is to blame for her children’s upbringing as it does not fit into the ideals of the Old World; she does not reprimand Daisy’s flirtatious and unacceptable actions and for Randolph’s impolite behaviors and remarks. She treats their courtier, Eugenio, as one of their family, and this was seen as unbecoming to the expatriate elite. In the words of Winterbourne’s aunt Mrs. Costello, “They are very common… They are the sort of Americans that one does one’s duty by not – not accepting” (James 428). Similar to how Mrs. Miller’s illnesses keep her tucked away in her hotel, away from the judging eyes of the populace, Mrs. Costello is “too proud to associate with Americans touring the continent and yet not having been accepted by European society or the society of Europeanized Americans, has developed sick headaches and withdrawn from society altogether” (Houghton). While she belonged to a prominent social circle back in the United States, she has not been socially successful in Europe, and her headaches represent her unconscious desire to hide from a society that has not met her expectations (Houghton). Mrs. Miller, Randolph, and Mrs. Costello are Americans out of place in an environment that does not entirely accept them, and so they are plagued with discomforts that allows them to shelter themselves from their surroundings.
In contrast, American expatriates Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker thrive in their European citizenship because they have absorbed the social norms and live by the standards expected at the time. Winterbourne functions well in his place of residence in Geneva, where he spends a great deal of time “studying” – that is, serving as the lover of a much older, likely married, foreign woman (James 422). This was a custom common in Europe during this time; while young unmarried women were expected to stay the perfect image of chastity and innocence, it was acceptable for married women unsatisfied with their spouses to take on a young bachelor as a lover. Daisy, with her thoroughly Americanized viewpoint, sees the hypocrisy in this situation; being rebuked by Winterbourne for her flirtatious habits, she declares “it seems to me much more proper in young unmarried women than in old married ones” (James 450). However, Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker have accepted this norm so as to see no fault in it and practice it themselves. It is significant that James uses the euphemism of “studying” to explain Winterbourne’s position, for indeed in a way he is studying the ways of the average upper class European. Likewise, “Mrs. Walker was one of those American ladies who, while residing abroad, make a point, in their own phrase, of studying European society. . .As a result of her study, Mrs. Walker has come to know the rules, she abides by them, and she cuts from her social circle anyone who endangers her own position by not following what she calls the ‘custom here’” (Houghton). Rather than have her reputation marred by her acquaintance with Daisy Miller, Mrs. Walker ignores the girl outright and refuses to invite her to any social events. Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker are able to maintain perfect health throughout the story because they have been fully integrated into European society and view it in a positive light.
In Henry James’ novella Daisy Miller: A Study, the illnesses experienced by several of his American characters are utilized symbolically to portray the rejection of the rigid European social precedents that contrast so sharply to their own. James’ story subtly hints at the moral sickness and hypocritical nature of the strict laws of society, to which the characters unaccustomed and unaccepting to this environment become exposed and subsequently diseased by its essence. The world that expatriates like Mrs. Walker and Winterbourne have become a part of is harmful to the others who fall prey to its attack and suffer mentally and physically from culture shock. The book is fittingly titled “a study” because it illustrates the downfall of Daisy Miller almost as a social experiment to which Winterbourne is the observer. As a pariah in an unforgiving society designed to seek out and eliminate those who do not fit in, Daisy was fated to be destroyed by the European culture she so vehemently rejected. Her innocence and ignorance made her sick to society’s ways and ultimately led to her tragic death.
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Quill, 2003. Print.
Houghton, Donald E. “Attitude and Illness in James’ ‘Daisy Miller’.” Literature and Psychology 19.1 (1969): 51-60. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Nancy G. Dziedzic. Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale, 1996. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.
James, Henry. Daisy Miller: A Study. 1986. The Norton Anthology Of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2012. 421-59. Print.
Obsessions and the Unsatisfied Life: A Comparison of Daisy Miller and The Beast in the Jungle
In the works of Daisy Miller and The Beast in the Jungle, author Henry James provides readers with multiple explanations as to why it is important for one to live a full life. These two novellas share many broad similarities, including central thematic focuses, a flawed main character, and a hamartia that makes the stories truly tragic. Both stories warn of the dangers of distraction from enjoying one’s life. However, while general traits are shared, certain topics sharply contrast one another, specifically the role of love in life, as well as the role of a supporting female character in the protagonist’s downfall. Though some drastically opposing elements exist between the two stories, the central story of a man’s downfall into an unfulfilled life remains constant.Both Daisy Miller and The Beast in the Jungle share strikingly similar protagonists. In Daisy Miller, Winterbourne is a man living abroad who makes the acquaintance of young Daisy Miller. Immediately intrigued, Winterbourne becomes obsessive about Daisy, both in infatuation and in judgment. As Daisy goes on to galavant around Rome, Winterbourne judges her every carefree decision, all the while seeking her love. By entangling himself in this ultimately futile drama and unsuccessfully trying to define Daisy, he has wasted his precious time with obsession. Quite similar is the character of John Marcher in The Beast in the Jungle. Marcher is a man living with a lingering fear of a “beast in the jungle”, that is, a future event that will likely traumatize him but ultimately give his life meaning. As his life progresses without facing the beast, Marcher’s fear grows to consume his mind. He becomes so obsessed that even when he grows old, he still has nothing to show for himself. Ultimately, the obsessive perspectives of both characters cause their downfalls.From these shared protagonists comes the mutual theme of the undeniable sadness of life not properly lived. In Daisy Miller, Winterbourne develops an obsession with interpreting the ambiguous character of Daisy. He continually tries to define her and place her into his preconceived structure of different classes of women. However, Daisy is unique and hard to pin down. As she continues to live her life exactly as she pleases, Winterbourne sacrifices his own life for his love of Daisy. After the two reunite in Rome, there is a melancholic tone, as Winterbourne must come to terms with Daisy enjoying the company of numerous men other than himself. With love unreciprocated, Winterbourne has nothing to show for his obsession but the sadness of a life distracted.The Beast in the Jungle also explores this theme in the life of John Marcher. Marcher is fixated on the lingering beast that could forever change him, so much so that it inhibits him from living a normal life. For example, Marcher never marries lifelong companion May Bartram. Though she loves him with the utmost loyalty, he is too focused on looming doom for love. As he reaches the end of his life and the perceived beast has yet to strike, Marcher acknowledges that he truly has accomplished nothing in his life. Distraction has vacuumed the enjoyment from Marcher’s life, leaving nothing but regret. A secondary theme that can be identified in both texts is fate exacerbating failure. James seems to explore the maxim, “When it rains, it pours,” creating even more disappointing lives than those created by the protagonists themselves. The conclusion of Daisy Miller finds Winterbourne not only remorseful of his time trying to define Daisy, but also mourning the death of his love. Before Daisy died, she wrote Winterbourne to tell him that his opinion of her did matter, opening the vague possibility of reciprocated love. However, with her passing, the futility of Winterbourne’s obsession truly reared its ugly head. Not only did she never return his love, but his efforts to tame her reckless behavior proved ineffectual: she died of malaria contracted during a late-night outing at the Coliseum. The fate of Daisy’s death transformed Winterbourne’s waste of time into a complete failure in his life.Likewise, The Beast in the Jungle concludes with an anagnorisis for Marcher. As Marcher grows old, he begins to recognize the lack of meaning in his life, primarily due to his fixation on the beast. This realization comes from May stating that his beast has already come and gone; though Marcher cannot identify the beast, he has suffered its terror nonetheless. This growing awareness finally climaxes with May’s death, when Marcher finally understands why his life lacked meaning. Marcher realizes that his lack of love, specifically with May, deprived him of fulfillment. His preoccupation with the beast actually created the beast, that is, the failure to recognize and reciprocate love. The fate of May’s death intensifies the failure and worthlessness that Marcher feels, finally grasping his wasted life and the true beast.While these broader concepts connect these novellas, their approaches to love are vastly different. Daisy Miller proves just how detrimental infatuation can become in a man’s life. With Daisy passing and nothing to show for himself, Winterbourne has fallen victim to his all-consuming love. This emotion creates an obsession that leads him astray from a life of enjoyment. However, in The Beast in the Jungle, the protagonist’s downfall lies in a lack of love. His failure to express love and enjoy the company of May deprived his life of meaning. Marcher grows old, lonely, and unfulfilled, until he finally comprehends his state is the result of a lack of love. In one text, James shows how love can destroy life, while in the other, he proves that love is necessary for fulfillment.A similar contrasting element in these stories is the role of the female supporting character. In Daisy Miller, Winterbourne becomes mentally tethered to Daisy. Wherever she moves about, Winterbourne follows to love and observe her. Daisy is the fatal distraction that keeps Winterbourne from enjoying is life. This supporting character serves to generate the downfall of the protagonist. In contrast is The Beast in the Jungle, where May is the only part of Marcher’s life that does not consume him with thoughts of the beast. May is wiser than Marcher, and essentially his only hope for being saved. Unfortunately, Marcher’s inner demons prove stronger than May’s will, and he cannot be saved from his preoccupation with the beast. Though unsuccessful, May serves as a beacon of normalcy in Marcher’s paranoid world. This is far different from the mental disaster-generating character of Daisy.In both novellas, James raises existential questions about life and love. Both works argue for the importance of a life of fulfillment, telling cautionary tales of those with wasted opportunities and nothing but sadness. However, the works provide opposing arguments for the role of love and companionship in life’s fulfillment. While Daisy Miller proves love to be the demise of Winterbourne in the form of Daisy, The Beast in the Jungle uses May to exemplify how vital love is to an accomplished life. Despite these differences in his works, James clearly identifies the troubled fate of those who obsess with everything but life itself.