Thursday, June 27, 2013

Character Analysis: Daisy Miller

DAISY MILLER: the innocent flirt

Daisy Miller, one of Henry James’s most popular works, has acquired its prominence mostly from its controversial portrayal of the American woman. The character of Daisy Miller has been portrayed as a woman of innocence and recklessness, and these traits are established in the story as very ‘typical’ of a young American lady.

The story begins in a somewhat comical scene where Winterbourne is captivated by the beautiful woman before him but at the same time estranged by her frankness and rowdiness. Her dialogues make it even more obvious that she is not a sophisticated person, despite the elegant fashion of her garments. Her language just possesses an extravagant enthusiasm, and I must admit that this carefree exuberance has been a good contrast to the graceful European setting, which makes it a very prominent -- and interesting -- characteristic. It is only when she agrees to visit the Castle of Chillon with Winterbourne, a person she has just met, that I start to think cheaply of her traits. Winterbourne’s aunt, Mrs. Costello, expresses the same sentiment. What makes it an appropriate reaction is the fact that it is not considered proper in the European setting. It can be considered as an act of flirting to go with someone you just met.

These opening scenes, without a doubt, are a portrayal of the different ways of living. Daisy Miller, being an American travelling Europe, just doesn’t realize that her American sensibilities are not appropriate in the European scene. And perhaps this is the reason why the ‘Europeanized’ Winterbourne finds her to be very alien.

Further in the book, it is not surprising that Daisy Miller starts to be the root of intrigues in the place as she gains more ‘intimate’ friends. Her friendly nature is more of the result of her want to play around and pass the time. But this doesn’t change the fact that this motive, no matter how innocent, can easily be misinterpreted as flirting.

What makes Daisy Miller an intriguing character is the fact that she is established as a ‘typical’ American lady. So, not surprisingly, the book in general has been the butt of criticism, especially from American women. But if you’re going to ask me, Daisy Miller’s natural and innocent purpose, even though deemed as uncultivated in some cultures, is still an ideal that is very charismatic. Perhaps this is the reason why Daisy Miller continues to be attractive to her ‘intimate’ friends, despite the fact that society sees her as nothing but a flirt. The judgmental eyes of society just don’t realize that she is actually not what she seems to be. She is just a misunderstood American lady who is showing who she truly is. It just so happens that her personality is considered a flirt in that part of the world.

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