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Daisy Miller By Henry James Essay

1009 words - 4 pages

When Winterbourne first meets Daisy, he is willing to accept her for the vivacious young American girl she is. Although Daisy's customs are not what are expected of young girls in European society, Winterbourne is charmed by Daisy and her original ideals. He defends Daisy to the aristocracy, claiming that she is just "uncultivated" and is truly innocent. As the story progresses, Winterbourne finds himself questioning Daisy's true nature in comparison to the standards of European society. Winterbourne's opinion of Daisy changes from acceptance to condemnation as his tolerance of cultural standards is clouded by the prejudices of the European aristocrats.

Upon their first meeting, Winterbourne is enchanted by Daisy Miller. She was a pretty American girl who was very fresh and different compared to the unmarried women of Europe. Although, at first, Winterbourne was bemused by Daisy's talkative nature and wondered if she may have been a coquette, he deduced that Daisy was just acting in an American manner. Winterbourne found Daisy to be "extremely innocent" and "a pretty American flirt."

Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, was the first person to begin fixing social prejudices in Winterbourne's mind. When he mentioned the Millers, Mrs. Costello at once began to list all the horrible reasons that the Millers were not on the same social level as herself. As she dredged up gossip and talked of Daisy's "intimacy with the courier," Winterbourne began to make up his mind regarding Daisy. He felt that she was "evidently rather wild." But, he still questioned his aunt's reasoning, claiming that all American girls were flirts and therefore, it was to be expected of Daisy.

Weeks later, Winterbourne journeyed to Rome where the Millers were staying. He visited his aunt before finding Daisy in the city and Mrs. Costello, once again, talked about the Millers, especially Daisy, condescendingly. Winterbourne, again, defended them claiming, "they are very ignorant - very innocent only," but not necessarily bad people.

When Daisy intended to go out walking to meet her Italian friend, Mr. Giovanelli, her mother and Mrs. Walker, an elite member of society, advised her against it. Daisy persisted, and "not wanting to do anything improper" convinced Winterbourne to walk with her until she found Mr. Giovanelli. Winterbourne agreed to chaperone her.

Upon observing Giovanelli, Winterbourne told Daisy that he "intends to remain with her". Daisy retorts that she has "never allowed a gentleman to dictate to her or interfere with anything she did." But she nevertheless walked happily between Winterbourne and Giovanelli. Winterbourne began to wonder if Daisy really was as innocent as she seemed because he felt that "a nice girl ought to know" she was being improper.

Mrs. Walker rode up in her carriage and persuaded Winterbourne to convince...

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