In Daisy Miller, Henry James is presenting us the nature of Daisy’s character through her relations with other characters, especially Winterbourne, one of the mail characters. Daisy Miller is a wealthy, young, American girl from New York, traveling around Europe with her mother and younger brother. Daisy is spirited, independent, and well meaning, but she is also, ignorant, and provincial, almost laughably so. She offers the opinion that Europe is “perfectly sweet,” talks about the tiring details of her family’s habits, thinks Winterbourne might know an Englishwoman she met on the train because they both live in Europe. She has no social graces or conversational gifts, such as charm, wit, and she is really interested only in manipulating men and making herself the center of attention.
The title character of the novella in James's work moves toward exploring Daisy's character as a vehicle for ...view middle of the document...
In the end, she dies, likely as much from Winterbourne's rejection as the fever.
Through his novel, Henry James shows his readers that the gap between what people believe to be true and the actual truth can be so different, hence the theme of appearance versus reality. To the Europeanized Americans in the novella, Daisy's independence causes her to appear unprincipled. She is innocent and uncultured and incautious but the circle sees only the surface of her character and the actions that character takes. She rebels not by having a great knowledge of the rules which bind the society and consciously deciding to throw them out the window, but by being limited in her scope of experience and by refusing to change her natural ways in order to please a culture to which she does not belong. Daisy's representation of an American Girl of the late 19th century is evident. Her free-spiritedness and individuality reflects the social movement of the American middle-class. One of the most interesting aspects about Daisy is her distance from the reader. The reader is not given access to Daisy's inner thoughts or feelings. Instead, the reader has to observe Daisy through Frederick Winterbourne. Although Daisy's mind is a mystery, her relationship with Winterbourne reveals her true purpose in the novel. She offers Winterbourne love, spontaneity and freedom. In other words, through Daisy, Winterbourne has an opportunity to change, but Winterbourne rejects her. So, we can see that rejecting Daisy, Winterbourne fails himself. Throughout this story, Winterbourne is questioning whether Daisy is morally girl but her behavior never reveals whether she is or isn’t. He accepts that Daisy is indecent but wonders whether she is innocent, and we never really find out the truth. Daisy does not seem so innocent, particularly when Winterbourne catch her with Mr. Giovanelli late at night at the Coliseum. So, whether such actions are or are not appropriate is more a matter of social convention than any moral expectation.
Fogel, Daniel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, 1990
- Howells, William, Defense of Daisy Miller, Detroit 1991