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An Analytical Essay On Henry James' "Daisy Miller." This Essay Debates Daisy's Innocence.

1323 words - 5 pages

A Cultural ConflictDaisy Miller, a young American woman traveling abroad, falls into problems with European society and its social standards. An independent young woman, Daisy does not want to simply succumb to these constraining ideas, as many other Americans living abroad such as Winterbourne are inclined. Representing a freer and more natural method of social interaction, she struggles in a rigid, conservative society. Henry James exposes Winterbourne's problems in understanding Daisy's eccentric behavior throughout his novella Daisy Miller: A Study. Winterbourne's inability to find a category suitable for Daisy's flirting is the central problem of the text. Most of the book's action focuses on Daisy's social miscues and the discussion of those miscues.The character of Daisy Miller is one of an innocent and naïve flirt, not that of a reckless individual. Daisy is portrayed as the quintessence of purity. Additionally, when her character is contrasted with the opportunistic and self-serving Winterbourne, her innocence and purity are further illuminated. Daisy is simply acting in the manner most natural to American society. The relationship between Daisy and Winterbourne is a microcosm of the conflict of natural behavior, whether or not one should be forced to accept another country's customs, that exists between Americans and Europeans. The misinterpretation of Daisy's free nature, expressed through her harmless flirting, highlights tensions between American and European characteristics and their ways of life. Therefore, Daisy Miller becomes a study of cultural conflict.Daisy Miller is the embodiment of innocence in the novella, emphasized by her characterization as pure and natural. The names of the main characters, especially Daisy, give the first insight into their personalities. Her name symbolically represents the flower it mirrors, the daisy. The daisy is a typically commonplace flower known for its simple beauty and lack of pretense. The fact that daisies open in sunlight attest to their life-loving quality. All of these are qualities found in Daisy Miller. The daisies at the scene of graveyard serve as an affirmation of her innocence. In addition, her dresses, which were all white in the movie, as well as the frills and bows, accentuate Daisy's purity. Finally, the narrator describes Daisy's conversation as containing "puerility;" this word is etymologically revealing. (310) "Puerile" comes from Latin puer, which means "child." To be associated with childhood, which is symbolic of freshness and newness, is to also be associated with innocence.Daisy's natural and pure personality is also conveyed through her " free" actions. Although Mrs. Walker warns Daisy that walking with Giovanelli is against the customs of Europe, she defies Mrs. Walker by continuing to walk with him. Daisy tells Winterbourne, "But did you ever hear of anything so cool as Mrs. Walker's wanting me to get into her carriage and dropping poor Mr. Giovanelli....It...

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