Innocence In Daisy Miller, My Antonia, And The Great Gatsby

2135 words - 9 pages

Innocence in Daisy Miller by Henry James, My Antonia by Willa Cather and the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is not as easy as it seems to distinguish who is innocent and who is not. Innocence is a cultural concept which is usually confusing. An act that is naïve and normal in one society can be a public disgrace in another. Then a question comes to mind: What is innocence? Challenging the norms of a society makes a person totally wicked? What spoils or preserves innocence? The word innocence is ambiguous. It has double vision because people put different masks on their faces for different occasions. Innocence is also one of the themes that can be focused on three American novels: Daisy Miller by Henry James, My Antonia by Willa Cather and the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. These three books help the reader to see the other side of the medallion and they suggest that it is our prejudices and cultural differences which shape our view of others.

To start with James' novella Daisy Miller, the reliability of the narrator can be discussed. Winterbourne, an American but a Europeanised man is told to be an "extremely amiable fellow, universally liked." Everything looks alright with him. There seems to be no way to discuss his honesty, his innocence can be discussed because he does not really try to help Daisy. He is only affected by her in a physical way. If he had a chance of flirting with Daisy, he would not miss that chance also he would not marry her. He regards her as an innocent, fresh, and young lady but also he thinks that he is common and unsophisticated

Winterbourne is not together with Daisy all the time. This is why his reliability as a source can be discussed. He is confused by her and the reader is also confused. Daisy Miller as the first American tourist girl archetype who dazzles the European men. When Winterbourne meets her, she is dressed in white white which is also a sign of innocence. Her eyes reveals that she is an innocent, naïve girl but her acts talk different. She is blamed for being a flirt. Miss Miller and her family are accused of not acting in a moderate way. It is true that her parents neglect her. Her mother has no control over her and her father is in somewhere in America. Europeans are those who try to belong to European culture. She easily goes out with different men. She says dinners are given for her by gentlemen in America and she is a "terrible, frightful flirt." She talks to foreigners as if she know them for years. She is always self-confident and natural. While walking with Giovanelli, she does not try to get rid of Winterbourne. She just likes the companionship of men, to draw their attention on her. These are all strange for so-called sophisticated Europeans who like gossiping and labelling. One thing to bear in mind is that if somebody does something bad, s/he tries to do it in private, try to keep it as a secret. Miss Miller does not show any sign of embarrassment in...

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