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Daisy Miller: A Study, By Henry James

1204 words - 5 pages

The controversial short story Daisy Miller: A Study, written by Henry James, depicts a story of a young European man named Winterbourne trying to come to terms with what he thinks about an American girl, named Daisy Miller. Henry James was born in New York in 1843, but lived most his life in Europe. While he was living in Europe he had many encounters with American tourists. After these encounters Henry decided he wanted to explore the difference between the innocent American, and the sophisticated European. (Werlock) The short story, “Daisy Miller” reflects on the idea of how innocence, gender roles, and stereotypes conflict with the views of Europeans, and Americans.

The meaning of innocence is explored by the character Winterbournes who has conflicting views of the American girl he meets named Daisy Miller. When he first encounters Daisy he questions if she really is just an innocent, naive girl or really is just scandalous and inappropriate American. “Some people had told him after that, after all, American girls were exceedingly innocent: and others told him that, after all, they were not.” (James 427) American girl tourists in Europe at that were thought as being just flirts and frowned upon in their society. Towards the end of the story when Daisy dies he still was undecided if Daisy Miller was truly innocent, “He said to himself that she was too light and childish, too uncultivated and unreasoning, too provincial, to have reflected upon her ostracism or even have perceived it. Then at other moments he believed that she carried about in her elegant and irresponsible little organism a defiant, passionate, perfectly consciousness of the impression she produced.” (James 454.) I think Daisy was old enough to understand that after being in Europe for several months the differences in their society, and instead of taking criticism and respecting the European social standards she decides to ignore them and not care how others viewed her. Mrs. Miller even tries and warns Daisy when she went alone with men that her behavior can be misinterpetated and viewed the wrong way. “You are old enough to be more reasonable. You are old enough dear Miss Miller, to be talked about.” (James 446) Daisy acts surprised at the accusations but chooses to ignore what Mrs. Miller has to say and not take her advice not walk with the men alone. Ultimately, it is the readers decision to decide how to perceive Daisy Millers character and if she was indeed innocent or sinful, critics say that, “Recognizing the limitations of both these interpretations can help unravel the dialect of type and individuals that makes “Daisy Miller: A Study” such a success.” (Haralson) Taking both views of Daisy into consideration is what ultimately makes Henrys short story so compelling.

With this in mind the second issue Daisy Miller: A Study explores are the different gender roles in society. Being that Daisy is from America and visiting Europe, men and woman are not treated...

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