Henry James’ Writing, Essay Example
Throughout the first and second part of the story of Daisy Miller, the author tried to create an imagery of contrast between spontaneity and people living by the rules of the society; using a common tool of naturalism. He introduces his main characters clearly, without any emotions or partiality. The author lets the reader decide on the character, their behavior and values. Each element of characterization is based on the actions of the person, and the judgment of the outer world is clearly described as a reaction to the unconventional ways of Daisy Miller. In the first part, the reader is able to meet and evaluate the personality of all the characters; their social status, background and beliefs. When Winterbourne’s aunt refuses to be introduced to the Millers, it is evident that the values of the two family members crash. While Winterbourne sees Daisy’s honest and “uncultivated” personality as a virtue, his aunt thinks about it as a handicap in the society. Winterbourne says, expressing his tolerance and understanding:
“I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake.” (Daisy Miller, Chapter 2)
Daisy Miller is first described as a young lady, fine and beautiful. But seemingly, it was also repeatedly mentioned how much she was quite uncomfortable with the society’s rules, through making a note of her constant fiddling of her dress. Specifically annoyed by her brother’s behavior, she slowly opens up to Mr. Winterbourne, as she begins to enjoy the scenery of the garden and of the people passing by. Relatively, this change of attitude on Daisy represents a sense of settling that was hard to identify at the first meeting with the man that she was introduced to by her brother.
Randolph, her brother is a more spirited and careless characters than she is; perhaps even a contrast to her personality. The author might have wanted to show the readers the two sides of unconventional behavior. While Randolph is described as loud, rude and ill-mannered, Daisy’s unconventional way of behavior and personality is seen in a positive way by Winterbourne. The way Randolph described his sister and his family later on provides information on how the attitude of Daisy towards other people came to be as reserved as it is.
Mr. Winterbourne’s character is used for narrating and commenting the events by the author. He sees the real Daisy Miller, as he does not look at her with the eye of the society, has no reservations and does not prejudice. Although Daisy looks and seems sophisticated in so many aspects, she is just a young lady hoping to experience life and see the world. The author does not indicate whether Winterbourne is purely concerned about the girl, or he had romantic feelings towards Daisy. However, the effect the meeting with the man had on Daisy’s personality is clearly described. She is far from being as innocent as Mr. Winterbourne thinks, and when he finds her with Mr. Giovanelli at the Coliseum, even his views change. Daisy then tries to correct her behavior in the end, and sends a message on her death bed to Winterbourne indicating that she cared what he had thought of her.
The illness of Daisy Miller might be a symbolism at work, and the author would like to express his worries about the freedom of thinking, being unconventional and unrestricted. The book might indicate that people who want to go “against” social and ethical norms have no future, and even though some people see the value in them, it is becoming rare, and there is no chance for girls like “Daisy Miller” to settle down and change, or the society to tolerate their different behavior.
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