Morality and Free Will in “Daisy Miller” by James Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Aug 23rd, 2020

The story ‘Daisy Miller’ is a narrative that tells the story of a young American girl whose zeal to explore compromises her reputation. This narrative gives a short description of the story and captures key events that make Daisy, a socially unaccepted girl in a society that esteem traditional morality. The second part of the article points out two central themes namely; traditional morality and free will that revolve around the story ‘Daisy Miller’. It also gives an in-depth analysis of how the main characters represent the aforementioned themes.

Winterborne meets Daisy, a beautiful young American girl, in the Swiss holiday resort. Apparently, Daisy has no misgiving holding conversations with strangers. He perceives her as “a pretty American flirt” (Henry 15).In the height of Winterborne’s talk with her, she mentions her intentions to hang out at a castle across the water; he expresses his interest in having the adventurous walk with her. After a couple of days, Daisy finds it appropriate to introduce Winterborne to her mother regardless of his doubts as to whether her mother would be comfortable with the whole idea. Later on that evening, Daisy suggests to Winterborne about her wish to ride on the lake and willingly overlooks the appropriateness of the time. Somewhere at the back of his mind, Winterborne is mystified by Daisy’s thoughts and actions. Despite the fact that he has serious concerns about Daisy’s tarnishing reputation he gets carried away by her spontaneity and levity. He reassures his innate being that Daisy could be acting out of innocence.

Deep down, Winterborne is dying to introduce Daisy to her aunt Mrs. Castello but she turns down the request with justifiable allegations she had heard about her. According to Mrs. Castello, the young American girl was flaunting and vulgar. In the course of their get together at the castle, Daisy gets to know that Winterborne would soon leave. After infuriating him about being under the possible tempt of some woman, she makes him pledge to visit her in Rome. Several months pass by, and Winterborne goes to Rome upon which he finds out that Daisy Miller is a household story. The natives of Rome allege that she’s fond of meeting strange men in discreet venues. As a coincidence Daisy meets Winterborne and teases him at the house of a mutual companion, Mrs. Walker. Daisy talks of her intentions to visit Mr. Giovanelli and pays little attention to Mrs. Walker advisory against being seen with men. When Winterborne tries to caution her against visiting Mr. Giovanelli, she says, “I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me or interfere with anything I do” (Henry 49). She resolves this by requesting Winterborne to accompany him.

In a matter of minutes, Mrs. Walker pulls over her carriage and pleads with her to leave the company of Winterborne and Mr. Giovanelli. She reproves her about what people would say when they see her in the group of men. However, Daisy firmly stands up for herself to defend against the public opinion about her; she firmly maintains that if her actions are improper, then she’s improper and begs them to forget about her. Mrs. Walker tells her that she would be a topic of discussion, but she says “Talked about? What do you mean? … I don’t think I want to know what you mean. I don’t think I should like it” (Henry 55). At the festivity of Mrs. Walker, Daisy infuriates her hostess by getting in late accompanied by her Italian ally. After the social affair, Mrs. Walker disregards her and informs Winterborne that Daisy is not welcome in her house.

For a lengthy period, Winterborne continues to hear bizarre allegations against Daisy, but he firmly maintains that she is an innocent girl, incautious though. Nevertheless, the trust of Winterborne in Daisy boils in one late evening when he transverses the coliseum. He unexpectedly sees an Italian friend with Daisy and realizes that she was not young and innocent as he had thought. He sways Daisy to exit and later inquires the Italian’s purpose of taking her out that late. After some days, Daisy suffers from Roman fever and passes away. At her burial, Mr. Giovanelli says, “…she did what she liked” (Henry 80). During the period that Daisy is ill, she tries to pass a message that Winterborne gets to comprehend after her demise. He acknowledges Daisy innocence and gets enlightened of her strong personality.

The story majorly focalizes on the decisions that individual characters make under societal pressure. There is a constant interplay between traditional morality and free will with most characters disregarding unaccustomed habits. Winterborne goes against society’s expectations by approaching Daisy; the moral code of the community they live in renders such as impolite. Winterborne seems to prey on Daisy’s naïve looks because she enjoys the attention. He goes ahead to commit the socially insufferable by accompanying Daisy to the castle before knowing her well. In Winterborne’s society, there are no repercussions for his misconduct and his life would continue as usual.

However, Daisy puts her reputation on the balance and end up being in bad terms with Mrs. Castello. At a later time, Daisy loses Mrs. Walker’s companionship because she would risk tarnishing her name. Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Castello embody the traditional feature that objects Daisy’s demeanor. According to them, women are to evade characters that reflect an interest in a person they have no desire for a wedding. Daisy’s involvement with Mr. Giovanelli puts her in a questionable social position given that she behaves in a similar way with other men. The community, therefore, assumes that she may be having an affair and gets ridiculed by the servants and cab-driver at the restaurant. Moreover, Winterborne does share the same opinion at some point, despite their close friendship.

Daisy, on the contrary, believes in making her choices and barely cares about what anyone says. She is independent, straightforward, outspoken, and freedom-loving, contrary to the general expectations of the community in Geneva, Switzerland. According to her, the decision of taking Mr. Giovanelli to the Coliseum is hers to make and should have no consequences on her life. The community, however, perceives her actions unpardonable and believes she visited the Coliseum with the intent of behaving inappropriately. People put false allegations against her and make blind judgments about her behavior without considering the truth of the matter. Daisy is simply rebellious to the rigid British customs and strives to maintain her liberty.

It is unequivocal a woman looking for a suitor would paint a negative picture of herself when she expresses interest in a young man; thus, the freedom of choice becomes grievous quality. Mr. Giovaneli or Winterborne could choose to visit the Coliseum, but Daisy stands to the danger of being socially ostracized. The consequences of men’s conduct in such a society are debatable and paint the picture of the world where men do not account for their actions. The story depicts that women ought to be the source and custodian of morality while men are not to measure up to the said standards. In conclusion, this is a typical of double standards on the gender morality in some present day societies.

Works Cited

Henry, James. Daisy Miller. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Print.

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