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.
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.