Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Innocence in Daisy Miller Essay -- Henry James, Daisy Miller
James' manipulation of appearances in Daisy Miller as well as other character's notions of these appearances provides us with a novella of enigmatic and fascinating characters. Daisy, the most complicated of these ambiguities, is as mysterious as she is flirtatious. James gives her a carefully constructed enigmatic quality that leaves the reader wondering what her motivations were and who she truly was. He structures the novella in such a way as to stress the insights that the supporting characters provide into Daisy's character, weather accurate or erroneous. Despite their questionable reliability, they allow James to make commentary on both European and American cultures and social class. In Daisy Miller the protagonist, Daisy, rebels against convention and runs from any stereotype that could be applied to her. She seems determined to defy convention and to never be completely understood. Daisy's flat-out rejection of her time's ideas of feminine modesty and appropriateness paired with her portrayal as naive and innocent, create a character with contradictory, and thus evidently enigmatic, qualities. Daisy "flirts" with men upon every whim, repeating a cycle of infatuation with each just before she moves on to the next. Daisy, often surrounded by "half a dozen wonderful moustaches..." (80) often goes out alone in public with them, even late at night, which is considered in Europe, in her time and social class, to be highly unconventional and dangerous. Despite much shaming by local women, she pursues these men with unfailing determination and abandon. Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Costello both believe that Daisy is merely a flirt and are equally appalled by Daisy's escapades. Mrs. Costello noted that she believed th... ...lace in Europe, the only true European is Giovanelli. Giovanelli's name means "young-man" (123); a "type" (123), and his modest dialogue and flat characteristics defer attention from him back to where James wants it to lie- with Daisy. The author diverts focus to Daisy primarily by constructing the novel around her appearances and the other characters' lives around her mystery. Despite this focus, no one character seems to be able to grasp the true motives and nature of Ms. Daisy Miller. Her innocence is justified by James, despite commentary to the contrary by much of the supporting characters, through subtle symbolism and direct description. Using Daisy's character as a striking symbol of a misunderstood American, James makes an observation about American culture and social class. Works Cited James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006.