Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller is a well-known novel that portrays the story of the cognominal character in Europe. The American girl differs from the other people by her behavior and lack of knowledge in social rules and norms. In this respect, Daisy can be regarded as an extreme outsider in the society she lives in. Although the girl is daring and independent, she is also the untutored and superficial person. As a result, Daisy’s provincial character and absence of tack makes her a perfect subject for Winterbourne’s study. Moreover, to convey the theme of innocence in the sense of ignorance and naivety, Henry James uses the third person limited omniscient narrative style, setting, and such literary device as symbolism. Therefore, through the example of Daisy Miller, the third person limited omniscient narration, symbolism, and setting, the author shows that adherence to social rules and norms common in the 19th century have had a significant role when speaking of acceptance by the society.

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Daisy is a young girl who travels around Europe together with her family mother and younger brother. The character frequently behaves almost laughably because of the lack of education. For example, the girl can immodestly discuss habits characteristic for her family members with other people. Meeting an Englishwoman on the train, she supposes that her new familiar might know her because they both live in Europe. At the same time, Daisy asks Winterbourne whether he knows about a small place named New York. To display the character’s innocence in the scopes of ignorance, James applies the third person limited omniscient narration. Thus, the audience perceives Daisy through the thoughts of Winterbourne who likes to study women. In such a way, the author shows what the society personified by Winterbourne thinks about the girl and her provincialism. Moreover, while the reader creates the entire impression about Daisy through Winterbourne’s reasoning, one can notice that character’s innocence is the main question that bothers the man. Although her vulgarity and a tiresome flirt show her to be less than innocent, Daisy’s constant clumsiness and lack of knowledge in social rules prove the opposite. In the end, the audience can hardly know the truth whereas all the information about the character readers obtain from Winterbourne’s perspective.

At the same time, Daisy is not only one of the principal characters in James’ novel, she is also a symbol of America. The girl is nice, sweet, ingenuous, and innocent, but she represents the pretty American flirt in the literary work. She is indifferent to the social reaction on her behavior and thus she walks alone at night with Giovanelly. The girl lacks charm, talent, and reason, and she is interested only in using men for her own benefit. When Mrs. Costello discusses the girl with Winterbourne, she says, I havent 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. This passage demonstrates how people in Europe treat American girls like Daisy. Mrs. Costello and Winterbourne look at the character as the untutored person who is too ignorant to behave according to social norms of the 19th century. Moreover, Mrs. Costello even refuses to be introduced to the Millers because of her negative prejudices against Americans. Thereby, Daisy symbolizes Americans as a nation viewed by the Europeans as innocent people in the sense that they neither accept nor follow traditions of the countries they travel to.

Furthermore, the Colosseum is one more symbol that transfers the message of the sacrificed innocence. It is a place where Daisy meets with Winterbourne before she gets fever that eventually becomes a reason of her death. From historical perspective, the Colosseum is the arena where gladiatorial games have taken place. Thus, the Colosseum symbolizes the public downfall of the girls as an innocent person lacking reason and manners. At the same time, the episode at the Colosseum is the climax of the novel. In this respect, it is very symbolical that Winterbourne decides Daisy is unworthy of his interest in such a place where rivers of blood have been drawn and many innocent people have been killed. At this point,, it is hard to distinguish advantages of being innocent because Daisys behavior eventually causes her to be engaged in questionable situation like in the episode at the Colosseum. Furthermore, the innocence in sense of ignorance makes the girl be misunderstood and rejected by the society. In this respect, the author draws the readers attention to the dangers of being innocent frivolous attitudes of other people, bantering, and prejudices. Only indigenous nature of the character and her charming naivety can be regarded as traits the author wants the readers to follow.

Additionally, the Colosseum is also a special setting the author uses to depict the fall of the innocent girl. Thus, the positions of Winterbourne, Daisy, and Mr. Giovanelli also have an important role. While Daisy and Giovanelli stand in the middle of the arena, it adds dramatic and theatricality to the scene when Winterbourne approaches. The latter reminds Daisy the lion who killed innocent people in Roman times. In this respect, this setting makes the girl’s ignorance and lack of tack even a more public spectacle expressing the feeling that they are on a great stage acting in front of empty seats. Thus, Daisy’s behavior of flirting and uncultivated girl eventually leads to poor consequences.

Therefore, the inability of Daisy to accept and follow social rules and norms makes her an outsider in the community. Moreover, girl’s discourtesy, clumsiness, and bad manners lead other people to think of all American girls being uncultivated. Using the third person limited omniscient narrative style, setting, and symbolism, the author forces the audience think the standards of the 19th century in Europe, as well as European prejudices concerning Americans. James wants the readers to stay true to themselves and at the same time respect the customs of other nations. Additionally, Daisy’s example shows how dangerous and disastrous innocence can be.

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