Wednesday, February 10, 2010

naive innocence.

Daisy Miller is portrayed as an ignorant, animated, and flirtatious character in the novella by Henry James. Her charming face and vivacious personality makes a remarkable impression on everyone that lays on her or witnesses her acts colliding with the customs of European society. However, European social rules were too conservative for Daisy Miller, and she constantly pushes the limits, always doing exactly as she pleases. I believe it was her deep fondness of “society” that made it difficult to put boundaries on her lifestyle. The tension increases exponentially as she develops an “intimate” relationship with the handsome Italian man, Mr. Giovanelli. Pretentious women, such as Mrs. Walker, begin to turn a “cold shoulder” to Daisy Miller, as she continues to flaunt herself around the community of Rome. Henry James illustrates the distinction between American values and European etiquette. However, over a century later, our society’s standards and way of life have become much less rigid in countries all over the world.

In the end of the story, Daisy throws caution to the wind by visiting the Colosseum with Mr. Giovanelli after eleven o’clock in the evening, as it was a wonderfully romantic to see the impressive structure dusted in moonlight. Winterbourne chances to see them, and fears for the pretty young woman’s safety: “‘I am afraid, that you will not think Roman fever very pretty. This is the way people catch it’” (55). Daisy Miller retorts, “‘I never was sick, and I don’t mean to be! I don’t look like much, but I’m healthy! I was bound to see the Colosseum by moonlight; I shouldn’t have wanted to go home without that; and we have had the most beautiful time, haven’t we, Mr. Giovanelli? If there has been any danger, Eugenio can give me some pills’” (55). After reading, two burning questions arose about Miss Daisy’s intentions: (1) Is she responsible for her own death? (2) Did she enjoy making a “scandal,” and perhaps forged a close relationship for Mr. Giovanelli to make Winterbourne jealous? The latter, of course, comes from Daisy’s insistence that Winterbourne be informed that she was never engaged. My answer, the way I interpreted Daisy Miller, is similar for both. I do not believe that she is directly responsible for her tragic fate, nor did she deliberately try to make Mr. Winterbourne envious of her closeness with Mr. Giovanelli. She appeared to me to be too “innocent” and far too na├»ve to thoughtfully conduct either of those actions. Her impulsivity and negligence may have played a hand, but her intentions were not to bring upon her own dreadful end or to engage in trickery or obscenities in their culture. Moreover, the Colosseum, oftentimes held gladiatorial shows, battles and hunts involving animals, as well as many other events, usually held by families of power and prestige. This seemed to convey more symbolic meaning in the place Daisy caught her fatal illness, as well as to the theme of social status.


  1. I like your points about society. I think that Daisy was not necessarily a bad person; I think she was just bored. I looked at the section where she talks about having no society, she just can’t find any. I think that is because of the different values European and American societies place on their young women. In Europe all of the young ladies that Daisy would have considered “society” were not allowed to be out. They had a special party celebrating their availability when they came of age. Americans encouraged their young people to out and getting to know each other. I Daisy Miller displays a textbook example of bored teenager.

  2. Daisy says at one point that she just wants people to make a fuss over her, which supports your point, Carissa.