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.
The Verdict on Winterbourne in Daisy Miller
Many have written about the guilt or innocence of Henry James’ heroine, Daisy Miller. In her story, James tells of a young American girl in Europe who ignores Old World conventions and goes about, unchaperoned, with two gentlemen: one, an American ex-patriot whom she loves and the other, a fortune-hunting foreigner whom she uses to get back at the man she loves. Some posit that Daisy Miller is a reckless flirt, totally aware, but heedless, of what her actions mean to her reputation. Others find her heedlessness innocent and forthright. But Daisy does not act in a vacuum. As critic Samuels notes, Daisy “is less culpable than those who persecute her. Her story is really about them” (174).The character who straddles the gulf between persecution and understanding of the essence of Daisy is the ex-patriot, Frederick Winterbourne. He has an awareness, that the other characters do not, of his own influence over Daisy, as well as of her resolve to follow her heart. Winterbourne’s words and actions lead Daisy, first to a series of assumptions about social behavior in Europe, then to some about the state of his feelings, and then to a reckless defiance of convention when those assumptions prove false.In their first meeting, Winterbourne sets up the chain of events that will lead Daisy to misbehave and later to rebel. He does this by giving her a skewed view of the manners of European society concerning social introductions. At first he only looks, though he dwells on her looks so long it is possible he is staring–rudely. He speaks to her when only little Randolph has very roughly introduced them. It is Winterbourne who discards convention first, then presses his advantage when she does not reproach him: “he decided he must advance farther, rather than retreat” (James 602). He continues to speak to her, and when he observes that she appears unembarrassed and seems to take little interest in him, he assumes, because of her spirit, that she might be a “coquette” (James 602). Given the fact that he improperly initiated a conversation with an unchaperoned, unmarried woman, it is hypocritical of him to judge Daisy based on her reception of his address. But he does.The result of his indiscreet behavior is Daisy’s natural assumption that things are done this way in Europe, that compatriots can speak openly to one another as they do in her part of America–an assumption that couldn’t be further from the truth. In a later conversation with his aunt, Winterbourne allows the blame to shift to Daisy. He compares her behavior to that of his aunt’s daughters and what is considered proper for them. Since he has never met Daisy in American society and since she is a newcomer to European society, this is most unfair. Fresh from America, Daisy is more handicapped in her social skills than they. Winterbourne himself is rusty about the customs of a culture of which he used to be a part; Daisy, on the other hand, has never been to Europe and can’t be expected to know anything, first-hand, of the customs. What she does know about Europe has come to her through her friends. Winterbourne fails to see that his cues have led Daisy to think European society more lax in the conventions than she is used to. These cues bring Daisy to speak to him (after obvious hesitation), to form plans with him, and to behave toward him, and toward Giovanelli, in the way that she does.Once she begins this mistaken course of behavior, the acquaintance continues along disastrous lines. Through the further words and actions of Winterbourne, Daisy is led to believe he cares for her. This growing attraction might be another explanation for her relaxing of conventional manners in his company. He is obviously attracted to her when they are introduced, and we later learn that the attraction is mutual. It could be the rashness of young love, of Daisy’s reliance on her heart, that makes her forgive Winterbourne’s early forwardness, and perhaps makes her adopt his relaxed attitude toward social customs.For the entire stay at Vevay, Winterbourne gives Daisy reason to believe he is genuinely interested in her, concerned for her welfare. When they go off together to the Castle of Chillon, he tells her how happy he is. She in turn asks him “about himself–his family, his previous history, his tastes, his habits, his intentions (emphasis added)–and for supplying information upon corresponding points in her own personality” (James 614). When she learns that Winterbourne is to return to Geneva the next day, she calls him “horrid” and appears very upset. This is the behavior of a young woman whose feelings are engaged, not one who believes she is the victim of a light flirtation. Winterbourne’s own feelings are evident in the fact that he does not change his plans to return to his mistress in Geneva. His departure drives Daisy to take up with the foreigner, Giovanelli.When Winterbourne catches up to Daisy again in Rome, he tries to pick up where they had left off months before. She does not make it easy for him, and intimates that she is about to go to meet another man. His pique is, under the circumstances, extraordinary. Here again Winterbourne behaves as though he cares about Daisy. He accepts her request to accompany her to the Pincio to see the gentleman friend, and, when he sees the foreigner, he refuses to leave her alone with him. That he uses the pretext of protecting her does not lessen the significance of his insistence. Daisy is pleased; we can assume this is because she has seen proof that Winterbourne still cares for her, despite all the evidence to the contrary.But all these events, especially Winterbourne’s warm behavior after the long absence, have only lulled Daisy into a false sense of security. The assumptions to which her acquaintance with the young man have led her are shattered soon after his arrival in Rome. First, his “imperious” disapproval of her behavior sets her off, probably in part because of his long absence. She declares she will stay with Giovanelli, though one senses that she might be merely baiting Winterbourne. Then their American “friend,” Mrs. Walker, arrives in her carriage to “rescue” Daisy from the company of the two gentlemen. When Winterbourne sides with Mrs. Walker and suggests Daisy get into the carriage, Daisy questions his reasoning with a look. After all, he is suggesting that Daisy must get away from his own company to save her reputation. If he is a gentleman, and in love with her, this should seem absurd; he should never have endangered her reputation in the first place. She laughs defiantly and walks away with Giovanelli, which causes Mrs. Walker to turn on her, and Winterbourne to leave her. However, perhaps Winterbourne’s rejection has less to do with Daisy’s attitude toward her reputation than with her wounding wish to stay with the other man (Hoffman 22).The truth is, Winterbourne is annoyed with Daisy because her flirtation with Giovanelli keeps her from appreciating the lengths he has gone to, in his mind, at least, to see her sooner. He has; after all, cut short his plans (for Bologna and France) just to travel with “haste” to her side (Samuels 175). So once Mrs. Walker arrives, the “sentimental impatience” he feels to be with Daisy is “weaker than Winterbourne’s anxiety for his own reputation” (Samuels 175). Suddenly, “…the freedom of social behavior and the flirtatious innocence he finds so charming at Vevay, he condemns as dangerously coquettish in Rome” (Hoffman 20). This is what makes Daisy angry enough to refuse Mrs. Walker’s carriage–this, and jealousy about Mrs. Walker’s influence over Winterbourne.Mrs. Walker throws a party three days later, to which Winterbourne and the Millers are invited. The party begins a string of revelations for Daisy, through which more fuel is added to her rebellious fire. Winterbourne’s stiffness toward her begins to convince Daisy that he doesn’t care for her, at least not enough to treat her with interest and respect. His attitude drives her to defend Giovanelli. When she does, Winterbourne assumes aloud that she is in love with the foreigner. Daisy is offended and upset at his words, which prove to her that Winterbourne has misunderstood her actions and is casting them in a less innocent light. In shock and anger she goes into another room with Giovanelli, which further compromises her reputation. When she leaves, Mrs. Walker slights her, and Daisy learns further how far Winterbourne has misled her. In doubt of Winterbourne’s feelings for her and despair over the scandal his cues have led her to dismiss, Daisy clings more than ever to Giovanelli.Winterbourne and Daisy meet on Palatine Hill, where she is walking alone with Giovanelli. He lectures her again about her reputation. Encouraged by this, she all but admits that she only cares for his, Winterbourne’s, opinion, and asks him to help her. He declines such responsibility. Here again, Winterbourne’s lectures only lead Daisy to further defiance. She claims to be engaged: ‘”Since you have mentioned it,” she said, “I am engaged”‘ (James 631). Daisy is saying that she will claim to be engaged because Winterbourne is blind enough to believe it. She then tells him that she is only engaged if he believes her to be; she is dependent on his views for her actions and reality.The final confrontation between the ill-fated lovers shows clearly how dependent Daisy is on Winterbourne’s reactions as proof of his love and belief in her innocence. One moonlit night, while passing the Colosseum, Winterbourne sees two figures and recognizes their voices as those of Daisy and Giovanelli. He starts to walk on, prepared to wash his hands of her. She calls out to him, surprised that he would see her and “cut” her (James 633). Daisy asks him if he had really believed her engaged when they had spoken previously. In anger and disgust, Winterbourne declares that it doesn’t matter whether she is engaged or not. Daisy’s reaction is a revelation. Winterbourne has declared that neither her reputation nor the placement of her affections means anything to him. In “…a strange little tone,” she says she doesn’t care if she has Roman fever or not (James 634). She gives herself up, with hose words, to the world’s belief in her guilt and to the Roman fever, which critic Kraft calls “evil”: “The ‘Roman fever’ she catches is worldly evil, whether she knows it or not…She is not destroyed by this ‘evil’ alone, but also by the indifference of Winterbourne…” (Kraft 91). If Winterbourne no longer believes in her or cares for her, she no longer cares for herself (Samuels 176).Daisy dies within a few weeks. Her death is the ultimate proof of the fact that her actions depended on Winterbourne’s faith in her, since, had she cared for herself, she wouldn’t have endangered her health, fallen ill and died. As critic Auchincloss asserts, “What Daisy dies of is not the disapproval of society, about which she cares not a hoot, but the disapproval of the priggish Winterbourne, whom she loves” (Auchincloss 62).Whether Winterbourne has earned the love of such a creature as Daisy is not certain. The textual evidence casts doubt on the depth of his feeling for her. Winterbourne, the following summer, wonders to his aunt whether “he had done her an injustice: (James 635). Yet, after deciding he has made a mistake with Daisy, he returns straightaway to his mistress in Geneva. He does not back up his assertion that he has “lived too long in foreign parts” by returning to America (James 635). He does not show his faith in Daisy even after all that has transpired. However, it is too late for him to hurt her anymore.Works Cited Auchincloss, Louis. Reading Henry James. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1975.Hoffman, Charles G. The Short Novels of Henry James. New York: Bookman Assoc., 1957.James, Henry. “Daisy Miller,” Anthology of American Literature: Realism to the Present. 3rd. ed. Vol. II. Ed. George L. McMichael. New York: MacMillan, 1985.Kraft, James. The Early Tales of Henry James. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1969.Samuels, Charles Thomas. The Ambiguity of Henry James. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 1971.
Daisy Miller as the subject of a study, and the object of a narrative
“Daisy Miller: A Study” by Henry James, a story about an American girl in Europe named Daisy Miller, is told by an unknown narrator who only has access to the main character Winterbourne’s thoughts. The story is framed around Daisy Miller and her “abnormal behavior” as the subject of Winterbourne’s study. The third person limited omniscient narration of the story and the way Daisy Miller is portrayed in Winterbourne’s thoughts makes her character not only the subject of Winterbourne’s study in the story, but also an object in the overall narrative. In the story, Winterbourne makes a hobby of studying women. Towards the beginning of the narrative, it is said that he went to Geneva to “study” and implied that he was also there to be with an older foreign lady (1502). When Winterbourne first meets Daisy Miller, he picks up numerous details about her and immediately tries to analyze her: If she looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not particularly to hear him, this was simply her habit, her manner . . . He had a great relish for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and analyzing it; and as regards this young lady’s face he made several observations. It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive; and though it was eminently delicate, Winterbourne mentally accused it – very forgivingly – of a want of finish. (1504)In this paragraph, Winterbourne describes Daisy as an object. He analyzes every aspect of her face and tries to analyze her character by her looks and expressions, like one would do when studying something not human. He decides for himself that he doesn’t offend her, and that if she seems indifferent to him, it’s due to her mannerisms. This foreshadows the way Daisy is portrayed throughout the rest of the story. She is constantly analyzed and judged through the lens of Winterbourne’s judgments based on her looks, mannerisms, and behaviors. He also decides that her face has a “want of finish”: this kind of judgment objectifies her as something that doesn’t quite live up to his ideal of perfection in regards to feminine beauty. Throughout the narrative, she is judged through someone else’s perspective. Winterbourne constantly works to grasp an understanding of Daisy throughout the story as new events unfold. When Daisy begins to flirt with Giovanelli, Winterbourne makes his attempt again: And then he came back to the question whether this was in fact a nice girl. Would a nice girl – even allowing for her being a little American flirt – make a rendezvous with a presumably low-lived foreigner? …It was impossible to regard her as a perfectly well conducted young lady; she was wanting in a certain indispensable delicacy. It would therefore simplify matters greatly to be able to treat her as the object of one of those sentiments, which are called by romancers “lawless passions”. (1524)Again, Winterbourne analyzes Daisy with the hopes of being able to classify her with a certain label. So far he has decided that she is a “little American flirt” and is grappling with whether or not she is a “nice girl.” He uses a set of social norms to reach the conclusion that she is not a “well-conducted young lady” because she is not delicate. He also directly states that it would simplify his analysis to just be able to view her as an “object of lawless passion.” Winterbourne wants to view her as an object for simplicity’s sake: she is still given no voice and we have no access to her thoughts, which deprives us of her rebuttal to Winterbourne’s claims that she is a flirty, indelicate “object of lawless passion”. Winterbourne is also puzzled by Daisy many times in the text: “Winterbourne was bewildered; he stood staring . . . Daisy turned to Winterbourne, beginning to smile again. He was still more perplexed, for this inconsequent smile made nothing clear…” (1530). To him, Daisy is unintelligible most of the time. The fact that he has such difficulty figuring her out presents her as unknown and inhuman to him, as if she was impossible to understand, and need be studied and classified like an animal in the wild. The only way he understands her is through his own perceptions of the indications of her behavior. Just as the readers have no access to her thoughts through the narrative structure, Winterbourne has no access to her thoughts in the story and instead makes up his own definitions and labels for Daisy. Finally, Winterbourne decides that he’s figured Daisy out and that he shouldn’t have bothered with her all along: Winterbourne stopped, with a sort of horror; and, it must be added, with a sort of relief. It was as if a sudden illumination had been flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy’s behavior and the riddle had become easy to read. 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.” (1536)He decides to classify her as someone no longer worthy of respect or even of the effort of his study. In this way, it becomes official that she is worthless: there is no gain for him in studying her. She isn’t even worthy of being the sub-human object of a study. Daisy Miller is the subject of Henry James’ text even though Winterbourne is the main character. The narration, in which Winterbourne’s thoughts are the only ones we have access to, help to keep Daisy Miller objectified: even though she is the object of study in the text, she has no voice other than her ambiguously flirtatious behaviors throughout the story with which to defend herself against the labels and definitions of her that Winterbourne keeps insisting upon “figuring out.” In this way, she remains an object of the story.Works CitedJames, Henry. “Daisy Miller: A Study.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. ed. Julia Reidhead. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2003.
Tracking Changes in Daisy Miller
There are hundreds of differences between the 1878 edition of Daisy Miller and its 1909 / New York edition. While many of the changes are slight modifications to the placement of words or changes of some terms to an American English spelling, some of the changes vastly alter the connotations of certain scenes and, in fact, the story itself. While the 1879 version and the 1909 version of Daisy Miller are the same book, they are quite different in some key aspects. In the second version, James actually seems to make the book more critical of American tourists by degrading their quality of speech and having the Europeanized Americans more harshly criticize their visiting countrymen. James also builds Winterbourne up in comparison to the other characters by slightly modifying the narrator’s descriptions of Winterbourne. The overall effect of the changes works to undermine the innocence of Daisy and build a stronger case for the Europeanized Americans’ condemnation of the Millers.James also adjusts the way in which the narrator refers to Daisy in the 1909 edition. He replaces the often-used term “young girl” (1878) with “charming creature” (1909). The description of Daisy as a “young girl” is dropped from many other places in the text — over 80 times in all; the odd reference to Daisy as a “young girl” continues, but much more infrequently. She is usually referred to as either “Miss Miller”, a “girl” or a “strange little creature” (1909). These changes make Daisy less pitiable in our eyes as she is no longer a “young girl” whose improprieties can be excused due to her age. This works with James’ other edits to make Daisy less of a naïve girl unaware of the consequences of her actions and undeserving of her death, and less worthy of our sympathy.The changes also work to sexualize Daisy by referring to her as a “Creature” or an object of lust. Daisy’s actions are also referred to differently; in the 1878 edition, Mrs. Walker begs Daisy not to “walk off to Pincio at this hour to meet a beautiful Italian.” In the same scene in the 1909 edition Mrs. Walker accuses Diasy of “prowl[ing] off”. This subtle change of verbs elicits a very different reaction to Daisy’s actions, comparing her to an animal that prowls off in search for a mate. In the 1909 edition Daisy’s eyes “play over” Winterbourne where they once “glance[d] at” him (1878). When Daisy takes a trip outside she is made to be “exhibit[ing] herself” (1909). Many adjectives are added to describe Daisy’s eyes in the 1909 edition where there was no mention of them in the 1878 edition: her “quickened glance” is replaced by her “shining eyes”; and metonymy is used to replace Daisy herself: “She” is substituted for “Her eyes”. This focus in the 1909 edition on Daisy’s eyes, a vital player in the game of seduction, serves to bring out more of her sexuality and passion for the reader. James also degrades the quality of English that the Americans speak in contrast to the proper English spoken by the Europeanized Americans. Mrs. Miller no longer just says things as she did in the 1878 edition, she now “incoherently mention[s]” them (1909). Randolph, notably, has his quality of speech severely affected by the new edition. In the 1878 edition Randolph says “I am going to take it to Italy”; by the 1909 edition he says “I’m going to take it t’Italy”. The importance of the word “ain’t” in the American diction is realized in the 1909 edition, whose task is to show the ruggedness of Americanspeech. While the word makes four appearances in the 1878 edition, there are thirty-two instances of it by 1909. By degrading the Americans’ quality of English James is able to make the Europeanized Americans look better in contrast and to further separate the two groups in their polarized camps: rough and uncivilized America in one, and old and distinguished Europe in the other.One major change in the book is the depiction of Giovanelli. In the original text Giovanelli was a bit of a sneaky character; he is made out to be an absolute scoundrel by the 1909 edition. James completely dehumanizes Giovanelli through the words he uses to describe him: “man” is replaced with “figure”; “his” is replaced with “its”; “he” with “it”; and “man” for “thing.” Giovanelli is no longer worth recognition as a man in the 1909 edition and is referred to by the narrator as a “thing.” James adds the word “coxcombical” in the 1909 edition to describe Giovanelli, implying that he is a fool. Even Giovanelli’s actions, which were once called “very agreeabl[e]” and “ingenious” (1878) become “irresponsible” and “bland” (1909). Any indication of Giovanelli’s intentions to be a mere friend to Daisy is thrown out in the 1909 edition, where the narrator refers to him as “the girl’s attendant admirer.” By making Giovanelli so despicable the narrator is able to give us even more reason to dislike Daisy for being entranced with the conniving wiles of such a character. Giovanelli and the Millers are not the only subjects of James’s changes. Winterbourne receives a slightly harsher condemnation from the narrator in the 1909 edition. Whereas in the 1878 edition Daisy accuses Winterbourne of “cut[ting] her” at the Coliseum, by 1909 he “cuts [her] dead.” The use of the word “dead” where before there was nothing is a notable change because it strengthens the narrator’s condemnation of Winterbourne’s cruel response to Daisy. This is the point in the story where Winterbourne finally believes he has understood the true Daisy, where he decides that “she was a young lady about the SHADES of whose perversity a foolish puzzled gentleman need no longer trouble his head or his heart” (1909). The narrator condemns Winterbourne when Winterbourne condemns Daisy, and this is made even more obvious in the 1909 edition.An interesting addition to the later edition occurs when Winterbourne is criticizing Giovanelli for taking Daisy out to the Coliseum at nighttime: suddenly Winterbourne switches from English to French when he tells Giovanelli that he does not care if Giovanelli were to catch the fever, only if Daisy does. This introduction of French into the play works well to develop Winterbourne’s educated character and impress us with his intelligence. The hundreds of minor changes in the 1909 edition of Daisy Miller work towards further polarizing the Europeanized Americans and the Americans tourists, such as the Miller family. James does this by degrading the Millers’ quality of speech while preserving the proper speech of the Europeanized Americans, by adjusting the descriptions of Daisy from being a “Young girl” (1878) to being a “charming creature” (1909), by sexualizing Daisy and giving us a reason to distrust her because of her alluded promiscuity, and by condemning Daisy for being so easily taken by such an obvious fraud as Giovanelli. A few of these issues existed in the 1878 edition, such as the allusions to Daisy’s promiscuity and Giovanelli’s undesirability, but James works hard to bring them into the foreground in the 1909 edition. The result is a more controversial book that pits black against white, polarizes the Americans and leaves less room for Daisy to be pitied.
Etiquette: A Social Ideology
Daisy Miller is a potent social commentary that considers the ideologies of transplanted Americans residing in Europe. During the late nineteenth century, the United States surfaced as a political and economic power. Wealthy Americans, anxious to create their own elite society, embraced the well-established customs of the European aristocracy. In fact, several of the most affluent families relocated to Europe to refine their mimicry and distinguish themselves from their contemporaries. Daisy Miller examines how the European ideology of etiquette is adopted by high-society Americans and subsequently transformed into a rigid reality that persecutes James’s ill-mannered title character until her demise.Literary theorist Louis Althusser suggests, “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (294). Thus, etiquette as an ideology is not, intrinsically, a system that physically rules the actions and thoughts (essentially, the existence) of its adherents. However, an ideology is capable of transcending its traditional confines when an individual opts to assign it any measure of material existence (Althusser 296). Such is the case in Daisy Miller. Winterbourne, Mrs. Costello, Mrs. Walker, and Mrs. Miller all regard etiquette as more than an idle ideology. They allow their adopted system of European etiquette to dictate their actions and structure their lives. Indeed, each has endowed etiquette with a material existence.In contrast, Daisy Miller affords no credence to the borrowed European ideology. Instead, Daisy argues that European etiquette is “stiff and unreasonable.” Throughout the novella, Daisy is relentless in her effort to maintain her independence from such social conventions. According to Lisa Johnson, “She [Daisy] breaks rather than bending to social demands” (Johnson 42). Rather than conform, Daisy delights in underscoring the absurdity of etiquette. She contends that the system of manners is mere bigotry (Johnson 48). Her decisive rejection of traditional European etiquette results in her ultimate isolation from society.Readers are first introduced to Daisy’s disregard for traditional decorum by her earliest exchange with Winterbourne. While observing the elegant Miss Miller from afar, Winterbourne recalls that a gentleman seldom has the social liberty to approach an unmarried woman. Nevertheless, intrigued by Daisy’s beauty, he decides to risk rejection by speaking to her. Prepared to encounter a shy, timid young girl, Winterbourne is surprised by Daisy’s confidence. It is revealed, “It became obvious that she was much disposed towards conversation” (6). Both delighted and shocked, Winterbourne contemplates the possibility of the loquacious Daisy being a coquette. This rather presumptuous insult is a consequence of Daisy’s slight to traditional social etiquette. In late nineteenth century European society, the idea of an unchaperoned young lady “chatting” with a gentleman (for all to see) was completely unacceptable. Despite benefiting from Daisy’s faux pas, Winterbourne categorizes Daisy as a flirt.To be labeled a coquette/flirt in European society is to be branded a whore in American society. While flirting is a perfectly acceptable form of playful (sexual) banter in American society, it is considered a vulgar gaffe in European society (Fogel 60). Winterbourne informs Daisy of this fact at Mrs. Walker’s soiree, “Flirting is a purely American custom; it doesn’t exist here” (45). However, even by American standards, readers are inclined to join Winterbourne in questioning the innocence of Daisy Miller. Brazenly rendezvousing with recent male acquaintances and requesting to be rowed to the remote Chateau de Chillon approximately two hours before midnight are at the very least questionable behaviors. It is interesting to note that these concerns of innocence reveal the double standards entrenched in Western thought. Why are American readers not concerned with Winterbourne’s unquestionable promiscuity? Perhaps American readers too are so consumed by an outdated ideology that they agree with Mrs. Costello: “Of course a man may know every one [sic]. Men are welcome to the privilege!” (28).Undoubtedly, Mrs. Costello has granted social etiquette (as an ideology) an extremely rigid and persecutive material existence. She insists to Winterbourne that the Millers are dreadfully common, and it is her social duty to reject them. In response to a plea from Winterbourne to accept Daisy, Mrs. Costello asserts, “I can’t, my dear Frederick. I would if I could, but I can’t” (13). Mrs. Costello has allowed an ideology to become her restrictive reality. Unfortunately, the adoption of this ideology has far graver consequences for the “dreadful” Daisy Miller.Daisy’s intimate relationship with Eugenio, the Miller’s courier, is yet another unforgivable faux pas identified by Mrs. Costello. Disgusted, the gossipy matron alleges, “They treat the courier like a familiar friend, like a gentleman. I shouldn’t wonder if he dines with them” (14). Obviously ignorant of European society and etiquette, the Millers rely heavily upon Eugenio for guidance and advice. For instance, Eugenio advises Daisy that it would not be “proper” to accompany Winterbourne on a rowboat ride an hour prior to midnight. Nevertheless, it is far more improper by European standards for the Millers to regard their servant as a gentleman deserving the slightest iota of deference. Furthermore, Mrs. Costello reports that Eugenio smokes in the evening while lounging in the garden with the Millers. For a servant to smoke sprawled in front of his employers is a deplorable offense to European etiquette. Winterbourne concludes that Daisy is uncultivated and “rather wild” (14). Once again, James emphasizes that both Mrs. Costello and Winterbourne afford the European ideology of etiquette a material (real) existence.Daisy’s refusal to acquiesce to Mrs. Walker’s entreaties to board her carriage, abandoning the garish Giovanelli, is the most significant and dramatic blunder of etiquette in the novel. By parading down the street with a “spurious gentleman,” Daisy risks ruining her already tarnished reputation. Elated to have such a gentleman by her side, Daisy foolishly ignores Mrs. Walker’s admonitions. The concerned Mrs. Walker cautions, “You are old enough to be more reasonable. You are old enough, dear Miss Miller, to be talked about” (39). It is quite unacceptable for an unmarried young lady to be seen in the company of a lower-class Italian walking to the Pincio (Fogel 62). Therefore, Mrs. Walker passionately endeavors to dissuade Daisy from continuing her boorish jaunt. Finally, in an emotional retort to Mrs. Walker’s scolding, Daisy replies, “I never heard anything so stiff! If this is improper, Mrs. Walker… then I am all improper, and you must give me up” (40). In this dramatized scene that leaves tears in the eyes of the frustrated Mrs. Walker, Daisy candidly communicates her tragic flaw. Because Daisy refuses to adhere to Europe’s system of etiquette, she is spurned by the ideology’s adherents and forsaken by society.Notwithstanding Mrs. Walker’s seemingly genuine concern for Daisy’s reputation, the astute reader should realize that the passionate matron’s pleas are fueled by more selfish motives. As an affluent American enjoying the benefits of a European society tailored to her wants and needs, Mrs. Walker will make every effort to preserve the ideology that empowers her. Etiquette as an ideology structures her reality; thus, Mrs. Walker recognizes Daisy Miller’s rejection of etiquette as an affront to her reality. In an attempt to assuage the poignancy of Daisy’s affront, Mrs. Walker struggles to obtain an “apology” from the vivacious non-conformist. Had Daisy consented to desert her companion and enter Mrs. Walker’s carriage, she would have (figuratively) apologized, and by doing so, lost the battle for autonomy to Mrs. Walker’s oppressive ideology.Indeed, it is debatable whether any character in the novella is sincerely concerned with Daisy Miller, the individual. Instead, Daisy Miller represents a prize for each of her pursuers. For Winterbourne, Daisy epitomizes the ultimate sexual conquest. After all, according to Winterbourne, “American girls are the best!” (4). However, Winterbourne also yearns to tame the “young American flirt” by saddling her with traditional European ideologies of etiquette. Validation of this argument is found throughout the novel with each attempt to refine and educate Daisy about European customs. For the ostentatious Giovanelli, Daisy is a trophy. Well-aware of his (low) status in society, Giovanelli exploits Daisy as an embellishment to his already grandiose style. Nevertheless, their relationship is mutualistic. By gallivanting around Rome with Giovanelli, Daisy clearly articulates her desire to remain unburdened by any confining social ideologies. Upon realizing this verity, Daisy Miller emerges as James’s most self-actualized/developed character.Enchanted by the allure of the ancient Roman arena, Winterbourne discovers the amorous Daisy and Giovanelli in the Coliseum (Fogel 47). Mortified and embittered, he resolves that Daisy Miller is no longer a woman to be respected (54). At this pivotal moment, Winterbourne succumbs to the pressures of his private society (Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker) and allows the ideology of social etiquette to materialize into a rigid, elitist reality. His attitude towards Daisy mutates to one of indifference almost immediately. At this point, all of society (except Giovanelli) has rejected Daisy. Amidst derisive laughter, Winterbourne half-heartedly suggests that Daisy relocate to a less “fatal” locale to avoid contracting Roman fever. Despondent and regretful in her last moments with Winterbourne, Daisy seems to silently acknowledge her social death while audibly foreshadowing her physical death.Winterbourne later discovers that the flirtatious Daisy regarded him fondly and had no intention of marrying Giovanelli. Perhaps James crafted such a tragic ending to discourage society from forcing its members to conform to any particular ideology. While most people are willing to adjust and adhere to the social etiquette of society, there will undoubtedly be a few individuals that opt to maintain their own customs. Should these people be punished for their beliefs? What qualifications must a society possess to judge these individuals? Daisy Miller, a true individual, was judged and persecuted by the upper-crust of American society in Europe; this persecution led to her demise. Daisy Miller by Henry James continues to charm and engage modern audiences because its story and characters are timeless. More than a century separates modern society from the society examined in the novella, yet readers readily relate to the situations and sentiments of James’s characters. Daisy Miller is a sociological study. Our interest in Daisy and Winterbourne is an interest in ourselves.Works CitedAlthusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” Literary Theory and Anthology. Ed. J. Rivkin. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.Fogel, Daniel. Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Dover Publications, 1995.Johnson, Lisa. “Daisy Miller: Cowboy Feminist.” The Henry James Review 222E1 (2001): 41-58. On-line. Internet. 30 April 2004. Available WWW: http://muse.jhu.edu.spot.lib.auburn.edu/journals /henry_james_review/v022/22.1johnson.html.Parenthetical citations for Daisy Miller include page numbers only.
At First, Second, and Third Sight: Observational Refinement in “Daisy Miller”
He said to himself that she was too light and childish, too uncultivated and unreasoning, too provincial, to have reflected upon the ostracism or even to have perceived it. Then at other moments he believed that she carried about in her elegant and irresponsible organism a defiant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression she produced. (43)The socialites in Daisy Miller’s world aspire to a perfection, a nobility, and a superlative of character. But character is a misleading word; interiority is important only insofar as it reflects the assumed depths that come with an appearance of refinement, for the relationships in “Daisy Miller: A Study” are formed by observation, not by conversation. Winterbourne’s penetrating gaze dissects and complicates Daisy’s appearance and, subsequently, personality, beyond what her own projection of an personality warrants. The narrator of Henry James’s story furthers this atmosphere, peppering visual and even abstract sentences with modifiers and other syntactical strokes to force a system of visual refinement on the reader. The reader, however, must engage his imagination to form a picture of Daisy, her most evident quality, while he is kept privy to her relatively blank consciousness, thus ensuring an emotional detachment from her which allows him to “see” her as she really is. The heroine captivates Winterbourne, on the other hand, for most of the story, because he can only surmise as to the mystery, or “riddle,” as the narrator calls it, of the “ambiguity of Daisy’s behavior” beneath her deceptive exterior (46). His recognition of his reliance on the gaze, and on Daisy’s vacuity otherwise, triggers his final disgust and enables him to select an answer from the opening passage of this essayor at least recognize the hollowness of the debate, that either alternative is a product of a negligible character whose “observant consciousness” only functions when it loops back on itself, as all of Daisy’s limited comments, too, imply: an attempt at demonstrating refinement that fails to advance linearly, but instead circles its solipsistic subject.From the start, Winterbourne is shown as a participatory voyeur. His greatest talent is in particularize female beauty into discrete parts, refining his vision of the whole into smaller, more appreciable pieces:They were wonderfully pretty eyes; and, indeed, Winterbourne had not seen for a long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman’s various featuresher complexion, her nose, her ears, her teeth. He had a great relish for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and analysing it; and as regards this young lady’s face he made several observations. (7)Besides the visual blazon he writes on Daisy as a traditional weapon of subjugation (and which permits him, momentarily, to “mentally accuse” her face “of a want of finish” ), Winterbourne tries something equally dominatingto usurp Daisy’s own power of sight by judging her eyes only on aesthetic terms. In their meeting, Daisy is at first ostensibly pinned by Winterbourne’s evaluative gaze of superlatives and particularization, but her eyes tell another story: “She sat there with her extremely pretty hands, ornamented with very brilliant rings, folded in her lap, and with her pretty eyes now resting upon those of Winterbourne, now wandering over the garden, the people who passed by, and the beautiful view” (9). Daisy’s agency and spontaneity, the qualities that draw Winterbourne after her, are on display here, so prominently, in fact, that Winterbourne’s own formerly powerful eyes get lost in the shifting catalog of her line-of-sight.James makes it easy to trace the origins of Daisy’s mode of surveillance. The description of her mother contains several hints as to where Daisy picked up her evasive eyeballing:Her mother was a small, spare, light person, with a wandering eye, a very exiguous nose, and a large forehead, decorated with a certain amount of thin, much-frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs. Miller was dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous diamonds in her ears. So far as Winterbourne could observe, she gave him no greetingshe certainly was not looking at him. (18)Winterbourne’s reduced powers of observation highlights another feature of Mrs. Miller’s which Daisy sharesher appearance of mystery through opposition. The smallness of her body contrasts with her “wandering eye,” just as her “exiguous nose” plays against her “large forehead,” or even that her hair is both “thin” and “much-frizzled.” This state of ambiguity, much more attractive in Daisy, is what causes a retrospective Winterbourne to note confusedly that Daisy’s face “was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive” (7) and, more generally, wonder about Daisy’s motivations. Mrs. Miller’s appearance contrasts sharply with that of Winterbourne’s aunt, whose natural refinement is pronounced by her consistency of extreme:Mrs. Costello was a widow who frequently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick-headaches, she would probably have left a deeper impress upon her time. She had a long pale face, a high nose, and a great deal of striking white hair, which she wore in large puffs and rouleaux over the top of her head. (13; italics mine, except for ‘rouleaux’)Daisy has the best of both worlds, superlative beauty with contradictory ambiguity, but her lack of the nobility Mrs. Costello has in spades is why, in the elder’s eyes, “‘[S]he’s pretty. But she is very common'” (13). Even the word “pretty,” used extensively for Daisy, connotes a lesser, more readily available form of beauty and hints at the straightforward consciousness Winterbourne will later uncover.But until then, Winterbourne is in Daisy’s extremely pretty hands, and at times his voice seems to blend into the narrative to invite the reader into observing the world as he does. The opening of the story launches the process of particularization and refinement in its casual description of the resort town:At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly comfortable hotel. There are, indeed, many hotels; for the entertainment of tourists is the business of the place, which, as many travellers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably blue lakea lake that it behoves every tourist to visit. (3)The modifiers “particularly,” “indeed,” and “remarkably”even the reminder to tourists and the ensuing recommendationall add up to produce a world whose innate elegance must be tapped by the refining eye of the observer. The same conceit applies to the descriptions of Daisy already cited. But since prose descriptions do not grip him as much as the visual does an actual observer, the reader is aware of the superficiality of these judgments long before Winterbourne understands them. Halfway through the story, annoyed with Daisy’s ingratitude for his visit, Winterbourne recalls the chestnut that pretty American women are “at once the most exacting in the world and the least endowed with a sense of indebtedness” (28). “Exacting” in more way than one, since Daisy is demanding of others and of the precise sort of attention paid to her. Of course, she rarely repays this attention, a fact the reader is cognizant of before Winterbourne is, as with the narrative description of her indifference to his history lesson: “‘I never saw a man that knew so much!’ The history of Bonivard had evidently, as they say, gone into one ear and out of the other. But Daisy went on to say that she wished Winterbourne would travel with them and ‘go round’ with them” (23). Daisy reconfigures Winterbourne’s knowledge in the familiar world of the visual (“I never saw…”) while his words of wisdom pass as uneventfully as the cliché James consciously employs. Her insistence that Winterbourne “go round” with her is one of the many uses of the phrase, a visual description of the social revolution (a meaning quite contrary to that of 1789 France) of wheeling about on a self-centered axis and ignoring the refinement of linear, intellectual thought that Winterbourne demonstrates.Daisy’s speech patterns reveal her linear futility and a tendency towards recurrence. She speaks about her mother’s bed-time habits:’No, she doesn’t like to go to bed,’ said the young girl. ‘She doesn’t sleepnot three hours. She says she doesn’t know how she lives. She’s dreadfully nervous. I guess she sleeps more than she thinks. She’s gone somewhere after Randolph; she wants to try to get him to go to bed. He doesn’t like to go to bed.’ (15)The minute variations of the rhythm of each clause (between four and five beats, with two exceptions) amplify her inability to deepen her thought beyond the original statement. She runs into an unintentionally humorous ambiguity (“I guess she sleeps more than she thinks she does” / “I guess she spends more time sleeping than thinking”), and the repetition of “she” stalls the subject pronominally where it could be used to expand description of her mother. Her inability to make headway is most obvious in her cumbersome use of “to” four times after the semicolonthe activity is constantly being put into effect through the infinitive, rather than coming to fruition (and, though it ends as a prepositional phrase, continues the infinitive theme). Finally, she concludes with a statement nearly identical to the opener, framing her synopsis with empty declarations.Caught in the world of the visual, Winterbourne is unable to detect these limitations. He cannot pierce the superficiality of Daisy’s character, and when he does find something he dislikes, as when he spies on her and Giovanelli, he is still too enamored of Daisy to confront her, either physically or in his own judgment. James subtly toys with the difference between Winterbourne’s discernment of the visible and the internal with a few cleverly-placed semicolons:Winterbourne stood there; he had turned his eyes towards Daisy and her cavalier. They evidently saw no one; they were too deeply occupied with each other. When they reached the low garden-wall they stood for a moment looking off at the great flat-topped pine-clusters of the Villa Borghese; then Giovanelli seated himself familiarly upon the broad ledge of the wall. (36)Clearly, we are meant to read the subject “they” as Daisy and Giovanelli. But James withholds any proper names until Giovanelli seats himself on the wall, and this comes in a separate clause. It is possible for “they” to mean Winterbourne’s eyes. In this reading, his eyes “evidently” do not see Daisy (or Giovanelli), because they are “too deeply occupied with each other”in other words, his eyes are enraptured with their own convergence of the gaze to see through Daisy’s demeanor. “When they reached,” then, continues to describe their roving path over the landscape; that “they stood for a moment” clarifies that the pair is really human, but the damage is done: “She came a little nearer and he held the parasol over her; then, still holding it, he let it rest upon her shoulder, so that both of their heads were hidden from Winterbourne” (36). He is blinded, while the reader retains vision (and most likely, at this point, couldn’t care less what Daisy and Giovanelli are doing underneath the parasol).Winterbourne, stuck in a visual system of judgment (“‘I have noticed that they are very intimate,’ Winterbourne observed” ), only breaks free from it and “sees” the truth when his vision is impaired:He stood there looking at herlooking at her companion, and not reflecting that though he saw them vaguely, he himself must have been more brightly visible. He felt angry with himself that he had bothered so much about the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller. (46)The vocabulary of observational terms which can double as evaluative verbs”reflecting,” “regarding”strikes the philosophical change in Winterbourne’s literal outlook, as does his using her full formal name as a way of sapping her of any suggestive mystery behind the ambiguous “she.” He later repents slightly after Daisy’s death, but seems not to take the lesson to heart. The real “study” of “Daisy Miller: A Study,” then, is Winterbourne, whose faltering attempts to “study” Daisy we follow until his brief redemption, and of whom the final line of the narrativereinforcing his return to the gaze, albeit now directed at an ostensibly more deserving, but still “very” refined foreignershould come as no surprise: “…he is “‘studying hard’an intimation that he is much interested in a very clever foreign lady” (50).
Storytelling in American Literature: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain and “Daisy Miller: A Study” by Henry James as Patriotic Narratives
Storytelling has become an important literary device found in American Literature. Stories like “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain and “Daisy Miller: A Study” by Henry James use storytelling as the simplest way promote Americanization. by telling these stories orally and written, through the scope of “real Americans” the authors are able to spread their ideals and patriotism. While these stories may not be necessarily true, they do spread the “truths” of the American people.
Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, Twain sets up his story as a tale within a tale. In “Jumping Frog”, the main story line focuses on Mark Twain meeting a talkative old story teller Simon Wheeler. Twain reveals that he believes the purpose of this storytelling was merely designated to waste his time. The tale within this tale is the one Wheeler tells Twain about Jim Smiley and his betting ways. Twain believes that Wheeler’s stories are largely exaggerated, but yet he listens. The essential component within both tales of “Jumping Frog” is satire, the manipulation of stereotypes and the exaggeration to point out the folly of men. In “Jumping Frog”, it seems that Twain makes fun of the tall tale genre and the people of the American West and East. His satire “challenges various stereotypes held by many Americans during this time”. According to the stereotypes within the story, individuals living in the west were considered to be dolts. In contrast, the Americans of the east were educated and considered to be cultured even.
Using satire, Twain twists the expectation and presents the easterner as an impatient snob fooled by those within the story. Continuing his satirical nature, Wheeler is not a dolt but comes across as a good-natured, experienced storyteller whose talent allows him to fool is “sophisticated” listener. Twain continues his examination of American culture by including use of dialect and vernacular language to establish his characters’ identities. For example, when Twain’s character speaks within the story he uses proper English and correct grammar usage. In contrast, Simon Wheeler tells his tale in the vernacular of the West. Speaking with an accent Wheeler ignores grammatical rules. He says “reg’lar”, “feller”, and even “Dan’l” for Daniel. The lives of the American people have been so closely intertwined in Twain’s story, that it seems as though the American people live within the narrative, recounting and examining the meaning of their lives.
Narration plays a very important role in Henry James’ “Daisy Miller: A Study.” “Daisy Miller” is told in third-person objective with pieces of first- person narration. It is through the first-person narration that we hear the actual narrator relaying a story that took place long ago,“I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three years ago, sat in the garden of the ‘Trois Couronnes,’ looking about him, rather idly, at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned” (James). While the narrator may be telling of a specific event, the tone suggests that it is not being told as fact, but more of a hear-say that has been passed along. The narrator is quick to point out that he/she “hardly [knows]” about the actual events and is ambiguous about when the event happened saying, “two or three years ago”. This ambiguous tone begs the question, should readers believe what the narrator tells them? The ambiguity of the narrator of “Daisy Miller,” makes readers question whether or not the narrator should even be trusted. The story focuses on Daisy, but readers know nothing about the person, who is just as involved in the course of events, telling them “facts”. It is through this narrator that the readers receive any details about Daisy.
By writing the perspective of an observer, James is able to show the discordance of American values in other cultures. Winterbourne, though an American, has been Europeanized, but Daisy, a true American, is considered to be wrong as her mannerisms contrast the morals of European culture. This is evident as Mrs. Costello claims that Daisy Miller is a “dreadful girl” because she goes on a date with Winterbourne after only knowing him for a short minute (James). Daisy does not hold the same European values that Mrs. Costello wishes to instill in Winterbourne, so Daisy becomes a threat to her own Americanism. Again, Daisy is discriminated against at St. Peters as, “a dozen of the American colonists in Rome came to talk to Mrs. Costello…” claiming that “poor little Miss Miller’s going really too far” (James) due to her relationship with Mr. Giovanelli. Unlike Daisy, these Americans have come to accept European values, and reject their own American values. Daisy becomes a threat to their reputation of Americanism. It seems that James wrote “Daisy Miller: A Study” to examine the stereotypes surrounding European views of Americanism. Using his storytelling narration, James seems to be appealing the American people to question how information in shared and question what is to be believed.
Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and Henry James’ “Daisy Miller: A Study” use the element of story-telling to examine the values of the American people and the importance of shared information. By creating characters, narrators, who are brazenly American, these authors spread American ideals using an “American Scope.” Twain and James may beg the question of what they should believe, but they create stories that challenge the stereotypes and reaffirm American values.