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.
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