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Literature Resource Center Houghton, Donald E. “Attitude and Illness in James’ ‘Daisy Miller’. ” Literature and Psychology19. 1 (1969): 51-60. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Nancy G. Dziedzic. Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420025344&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w Title: Attitude and Illness in James’ ‘Daisy Miller’ Author(s): Donald E. Houghton Publication Details: Literature and Psychology 19. 1 (1969): p51-60. Source: Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Nancy G. Dziedzic.
Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. From Literature Resource Center. Document Type: Critical essay [Image Omitted: Gale] Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1996 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning Full Text: [(essay date 1969) In the following essay, Houghton explores the role of illness in James’s novella, maintaining that many Americans visiting Europe become ill in the story “not so much because of any objective circumstances in the new environment but as a result of attitudes the Americans take toward that environment. “] Oscar Cargill’s definition of James’ “international novel” indicates how close James ame in so many of his novels to presenting the psycho-physical experience we now refer to as culture shock. “If Turgenev had originated ‘the international novel,’ James was to perfect and more sharply define it. An ‘international novel’ is not simply a story of people living abroad, as in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, but it is a story of persons taken out of the familiar contexts of their own mores where their action is habitual and placed in an element, as in a biological experiment, where everything is unfamiliar, so that their individual responses can be examined” [found in the introduction to the 1956 edition of Daisy Miller].
Cargill, of course, is using the term “biological experiment” metaphorically, but in fact the experience of encountering a foreign culture where “everything is unfamiliar” often does have “biological” implications which go far beyond the physiological consequences of a mere change of climate, food, and drinking water. In James’ Daisy Miller the experience of Europe affects adversely the health of a number of Americans visiting Europe, and it would appear that the Americans become ill not so much because of any objective circumstances in the new environment but as a result of attitudes the Americans take toward that environment.
The relation of illnesses to mental states in James’ novels has been suggested by Napier Wilt and John Lucas: “Europe has the power to inflict pain, visit ill, work disaster only upon those Americans who arrived or remained in the wrong spirit” [Americans and Europe: Selected Tales of Henry James, 1956]. The “wrong spirit” is the belief that America is superior to Europe in about every way and that the American does well to resist, ignore, or retreat from any aspect of European life he does not immediately like. Several characters in Daisy Millerhave the “wrong spirit,” and as a result Europe visits lls upon them ranging from minor discomforts to a fatal disease. Those Americans like Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker, who accept Europe on its own terms, thrive while there. On the other hand, Americans like Mrs. Costello, Randolph, and Mrs. Miller take a negative attitude toward Europe. They survive their tour, although uncomfortably, by developing neurotic symptoms which keep to a minimum unpleasant or dangerous encounters with the unfamiliar European culture. Finally there is Daisy, whose sudden switch from a highly positive to a highly negative attitude toward Europe leads to her death.
Mrs. Walker and Winterbourne have the “right” attitude and remain healthy throughout the novel. Both are long-time residents of Europe. Whatever pain Europe may have inflicted upon them upon their arrival is now in the past. Mrs. Walker’s health, happiness, and social success result in part from the fact that she came to terms with European culture. “Mrs. Walker was one of those American ladies who, while residing abroad, make a point, in their own phrase, of studying European society. . . . As a result of her study, Mrs. Walker has come to know the rules, she abides by them, and she cuts rom her social circle anyone who endangers her own position by not following what she calls the “custom here. ” Like Mrs. Walker, Winterbourne is quite comfortable in Europe because while in Rome he does as the Romans do. His advice to others is to “go by the custom of the place. ” Winterbourne’s adjustment is so complete that he apparently comes to prefer Europeans to Americans. We hear at the end of the novel that he probably will make a permanent alliance with “a very clever foreign lady. ” Winterbourne’s aunt, on the other hand, has not succeeded in adjusting to Europe or aking Europe adjust to her, with the result that Europe is to her still a painful experience. Mrs. Costello suffers from sick headaches. A social climber who gave Winterbourne to understand that she exerted a considerable influence in social circles back home in New York, she evidently has not been socially successful in Europe. Too proud to associate with Americans touring the continent and yet not having been accepted by European society or the society of Europeanized Americans, she has developed sick headaches and withdrawn from society altogether. Upon his arrival at Vevay, Winterbourne goes at once to call upon Mrs.
Costello, but “his aunt had a headache–his aunt had almost always a headache–and now she was shut up in her room, smelling camphor. . . .” Mrs. Costello “admitted that she was very exclusive. . . .” This is her way of explaining her unconscious withdrawal to protect herself from further unsuccessful and painful social encounters in Europe. In her anxiety over her social position she has repressed her desire to enter European society. The headaches are a symptom of this repression. Once present, the headaches become useful to Mrs. Costello. They serve as an acceptable, face-saving excuse for not succeeding in European society and for not isking further humiliations. She “frequently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick-headaches, she would probably have left a deeper impress upon her time. ” The headaches also serve to protect her from the unpleasantness of having to meet people like the Millers, whom she considers below her. Both Winterbourne and Daisy understand that Mrs. Costello uses her headaches to her advantage. When Daisy suggests a meeting between her and his aunt, Winterbourne is embarrassed: “She would be most happy,” he said; “but I am afraid those headaches will interfere. ” The young girl looked at him through the dusk. But I suppose she doesn’t have a headache every day,” she said, sympathetically. Winterbourne was silent a moment. “She tells me she does,” he answered. . . . “She doesn’t want to know me! ” she said suddenly. Winterbourne’s reply to Daisy at this point summarizes the relation between Miss Costello’s headaches and what Mrs. Costello has come to call her “exclusiveness”: “My dear young lady,” he protested, “she knows no one. It’s her wretched health. ” The three members of the Miller family in Europe suffer in varying degrees from ill health, and the illness of each appears to be related to the attitude each takes toward
Europe. To Randolph the only good thing about the trip to Europe was the ship, but “it was going the wrong way. ” Daisy tells Winterbourne, “He doesn’t like Europe. . . . He wants to go back . . . he wants to go right home. ” Randolph tells Winterbourne, “My father ain’t in Europe; my father’s in a better place than Europe. ” Later Randolph tells Winterbourne that he hates Rome “worse and worse every day! ” Randolph’s teeth are coming out, no doubt from natural causes, although Randolph blames Europe even for this: “I haven’t got any teeth to hurt. They have all come out. . . . I can’t help it. It’s this ld Europe. It’s the climate that makes them come out. In America they didn’t come out. ” Randolph’s strong disapproval of Europe, however intense, is not accompanied by deep anxieties and neurotic symptoms that occur in the travelling adults. He is too young to have arrived in Europe with any special hopes or expectations and so he is not shocked or bitterly disappointed by the fact that Europe has nothing to offer him. He is also too young for Europe to expect much from him and so he is not faced with the kind of decisions which might set up conflict within him. Still, since Randolph does want to eturn home, the longer he stays in Europe the more likely he too will be subject to frustrations and the development of neurotic symptoms. There is some evidence that this may be happening already. Randolph does not sleep well. Daisy tells Winterbourne that Randolph “doesn’t like to go to bed” and that she believes Randolph doesn’t “go to bed before eleven. ” Later when Daisy and Winterbourne join Mrs. Miller, the three discuss Randolph’s sleeping habits: “Anyhow, it ain’t so bad as it was at Dover,” said Daisy Miller. “And what occurred at Dover? ” Winterbourne asked. “He wouldn’t go to bed at all.
I guess he sat up all night in the public parlour. He wasn’t in bed at twelve o’clock: I know that. ” “It was half-past twelve,” declared Mrs. Miller, with mild emphasis. “Does he sleep much during the day? ” Winterbourne demanded. “I guess he doesn’t sleep much,” Daisy rejoined. “I wish he would! ” said her mother. “It seems as if he couldn’t. ” Like Mrs. Costello, Randolph instinctively protects himself from Europe by keeping to a minimum his exposure to the place: “Your brother is not interested in ancient monuments? ” Winterbourne inquired, smiling. “He says he don’t care much about old castles. . . He wants to stay at the hotel. ” Mrs. Miller does not like Europe any more than Randolph, but as an adult she can not indulge in the outspoken criticism of Europe which provides some therapeutic release for Randolph. Mrs. Miller is not well, and her “illness” appears to be an adaptive symptom to keep to a minimum further encounters with foreign ways. Like her son, Mrs. Miller does not sleep well. When Winterbourne asks Daisy at one point if her mother had gone to bed, Daisy says, “No, she doesn’t like to go to bed. . . . She doesn’t sleep– not three hours. She says she doesn’t know how she lives.
She’s dreadfully nervous. ” Later in Rome, Winterbourne says to Mrs. Miller, “I hope you have been well since we parted at Vevay,” and she replies, “Not very well, sir. ” Randolph volunteers the information to Winterbourne that Mrs. Miller has the dyspepsia and that the whole family has it, him most of all. Mrs. Miller then blames her illness on Europe: “I suffer from the liver. . . . I think it’s this climate; it’s less bracing than Schenectady. . . .” It is, of course, not the climate but the total impact of Europe upon her which causes Mrs. Miller’s suffering. Her blaming the European climate reveals only her general ttitude toward her total experience of the continent. That her illness is psychosomatic, caused by her negative stance toward Europe, is underscored by James in this same scene after Winterbourne has had “a good deal of pathological gossip” with Mrs. Miller and attempts to change the subject by asking her how she liked Rome. “Well, I must say I am disappointed,” she answered. “We had heard so much about it; I suppose we had heard too much. ” Mrs. Miller’s illness stems from the anxieties attendant upon her having to face daily, even hourly, the strange and unfamiliar. She labels her illness “dyspepsia” and then ses her discomfort to ward off further pain. She withdraws from Europe as much as possible. Early in the novel, Daisy informs Winterbourne that they were all going to the Chateau de Chillon “but my mother gave out. She suffers dreadfully from dyspepsia. She said she couldn’t go. ” Later Daisy tells Winterbourne that her mother doesn’t like “to ride around in the afternoon” and on still another occasion she tells him that her mother “gets tired walking around. ” When Daisy and others are talking with Mrs. Walker about a forthcoming party and also about Daisy’s new Italian boy friend of uncertain character, Mrs.
Miller senses she is about to encounter another array of new experiences and problems she has never had to face back home. Her instinctive response, like that of Mrs. Costello and Randolph, is to retreat from danger: “I guess we’ll go back to the hotel. ” She and Randolph do so, leaving Daisy to face alone a decision which turns out to be a life and death matter. The picture James gives of Daisy’s psycho-physical state in Europe is quite different from that of the others. The novelties of Europe charm rather than threaten her. Consequently, she has no occasion to be anxious and she does not develop the eurotic symptoms which insulate Mrs. Costello, Randolph, and Mrs. Miller from Europe. Daisy, on the contrary, is “carried away” with enthusiasm for Europe and wants to widen rather than narrow her experience of the place. Until very near the end of the story she enjoys good health. When she does finally become ill, her illness is not a protective psychosomatic symptom which comes from within, but a disease contracted from without. Her fatal illness, however, does resemble the illnesses of the others in one important way: it is causally related to a negative attitude she finally takes toward
Europe. Mrs. Costello, Randolph, and Mrs. Miller develop neurotic symptoms which prevent their experiencing Europe in any significant way. While they will return to America as innocent and ignorant of Europe, as they were when they arrived, at the same time they do survive to return. Daisy’s lack of apprehension over surface differences, on the other hand, allows her to enjoy Europe and good health for a long time, but her health and happiness last only until she discovers, with startling suddenness, a fundamental difference between American and European values which she can not ccept. Unlike the others whose ailments help to spare them from any direct confrontation with Europe, Daisy, with a father in America and a mother back at the hotel with dyspepsia and with no knowledge of the realities of European traditions and taboos, unknowingly drifts into a crisis situation unprecedented in her experience. The crisis comes in the scene in which Daisy is about to take a walk on the streets of Rome in the company of the questionable Mr. Giovanelli. Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker know that what Daisy is about to do is dangerous from many points of view, but their arning to her is put so delicately that Daisy does not get their meaning. She understands that considerable pressure is being put upon her not to walk with Giovanelli, but she does not understand why. She thinks they may be concerned over her health. Before Mrs. Miller left for the hotel, she had warned Daisy, “You’ll get the fever as sure as you live. Remember what Dr. Davis told you! ” When the more sophisticated Mrs. Walker tells Daisy that walking at this “unhealthy hour” under these circumstances is “unsafe,” Daisy still thinks she is talking about catching Roman fever. Daisy does not realize that Mrs.
Walker is speaking metaphorically and is warning her against doing something which would not only be potentially dangerous to her health but which also would be damaging to her reputation. Mrs. Walker then makes her meaning explicit: “You are old enough, dear Miss Miller, to be talked about. ” In one terrible moment Daisy understands what all the fuss has been about. She understands for the first time the full sexual and moral implications for Europeans and Europeanized Americans of what she is about to do. It is a traumatic and psychologically violent moment for Daisy. She is at once confronted with the facts of
European life and the facts of life in general, facts which she had previously been ignorant of or had unconsciously avoided. A gradual unconscious withdrawal from her dangerous and painful predicament is not an alternative open to Daisy. It is an either-or matter: she must either walk with Giovanelli or not walk with him, and the decision must be made here and now on the streets of Rome with Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker on one hand and Giovanelli on the other awaiting her decision. Shocked, outraged, and hurt by her discovery, Daisy is in no state of mind to weigh the matter carefully and deliberately.
As Frederick Hoffman points out, decisions made under such circumstances are likely to be impulsive and irrational, even self-destructive: An uninhibited drive toward satisfaction of unconscious wishes (or expenditure of libidinal energy) would lead to death. The wish needs instruction in the shock of reality; if the character of the inhibition is moderate, the shock will lead to readjustment; if the reality is too suddenly and too brutally enforced, the effect will be a traumatic shock, leading to one of several forms of compulsive behavior. Daisy chooses complete freedom rather than cultural and moral relativism and walks ith Giovanelli. It is the dangerous rather than the protective choice and her walk leads to illness and death. Daisy’s resolve to make a moral principle out of not comforming to European customs finally leads her to the scene of her most daring indiscretion, the Roman Colosseum. It is there she receives through Winterbourne the final condemnation by society of her character and it is there she contracts the malaria which leads to her death. The causal relationship between her death and her attitude toward Europe is clear, since Daisy would not be in the Colosseum with Giovanelli at this unhealthy hour if she were not ntent on flouting European standards of conduct. In this climactic scene, the contrast between sickness and health is used ambiguously by Daisy and Winterbourne to refer both to Daisy’s physical state and to her moral condition. When Winterbourne first sees Daisy there, his first thought is of “the craziness, from a sanitary point of view, of a delicate young girl lounging away the evening in this nest of malaria” and he warns her of the great danger she is exposed to. But since Winterbourne is also much concerned with and aware of Daisy’s moral state, he is also telling her that he thinks she is being corrupted by this Roman and that she ill suffer from this. He tells Daisy that “you will not think Roman fever very pretty. This is the way people catch it. ” Since Daisy’s discovery of the realities of European culture came through her ultimately understanding metaphorical meanings, particularly those related to health and sickness, she is now alert to the double meaning in Winterbourne’s warning and answers him in kind: “I don’t care . . . whether I have Roman fever or not! ” But Daisy is very fond of Winterbourne and still cares about his opinion of her. She wants him to know that he has been mistaken to judge her morals by her manners, her character by appearances only.
Extending the metaphor further, she conveys this final message to him: “I never was sick, and I don’t mean to be! . . . I don’t look like much but I’m healthy! ” What Daisy says is true only in the sense she is still innocent sexually, but she has by now contracted malaria and so is fatally ill. James’ novel also suggests that anyone who ignores or defies society to the extreme that Daisy did is “sick” also in the psychological sense, sick even unto death. Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Houghton, Donald E. “Attitude and Illness in James’ ‘Daisy Miller’. ” Literature and Psychology19. 1 (1969): 51-60. Rpt. n Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Nancy G. Dziedzic. Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420025344&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420025344 Literature Resource Center Howells, William Dean. “Defense of Daisy Miller. ” Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James. Ed. Albert Mordell. Twayne Publishers, 1961. 88-91. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. alegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420015070&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w Title: Defense of Daisy Miller Author(s): William Dean Howells Publication Details: Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James. Ed. Albert Mordell. Twayne Publishers, 1961. p88-91. Source: Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. From Literature Resource Center. Document Type: Critical essay [Image Omitted: Gale] Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1991 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning Full Text: [Howells, James’s editor and literary agent for much of the author’s career, was the chief rogenitor of American Realism and one of the most influential American literary critics of the late nineteenth century. Through realism, a theory central to his fiction and criticism, he aimed to disperse “the conventional acceptations by which men live on easy terms with themselves” so that they might “examine the grounds of their social and moral opinions. ” In the following essay, originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1879, Howells responds to critics who had dubbed Daisy Miller “an outrage on American Girlhood. ”] —To read the silly criticisms which have been printed, and the far sillier ones which are every ay uttered in regard to Mr. James’s Daisy Miller would almost convince us that we are as provincial as ever in our sensitiveness to foreign opinion. It is actually regarded as a species of unpardonable incivism for Mr. James, because he lives in London, to describe an under-bred American family traveling in Europe. The fact that he has done so with a touch of marvelous delicacy and truth, that he has produced not so much a picture as a photograph, is held by many to be an aggravating circumstance. Only the most shiveringly sensitive of our shoddy population are bold enough to deny the truth of this wonderful little sketch.
To those best acquainted with Mr. James’s manner (and I believe I have read every word he has printed) Daisy Miller was positively startling in its straightforward simplicity and what I can only call authenticity. It could not have been written—I am almost ready to say it cannot be appreciated— except by one who has lived so long abroad as to be able to look at his own people with the eyes of a foreigner. All poor Daisy’s crimes are purely conventional. She is innocent and good at heart, susceptible of praise and blame; she does not wish even to surprise, much less outrage, the stiffest of her ensors. In short, the things she does with such dire effect at Vevay and at Rome would never for an instant be remarked or criticised in Schenectady. They would provoke no comment in Buffalo or Cleveland; they would be a matter of course in Richmond and Louisville. One of the most successful touches in the story is that where Daisy, astonished at being cut by American ladies, honestly avows her disbelief in their disapproval. “I should not think you would let them be so unkind! ” she cries to Winterbourne, conscious of her innocence, and bewildered at the cruelty of a sophisticated world.
Yet with such exquisite art is this study managed that the innocence and loveliness of Miss Miller are hardly admitted as extenuating circumstances in her reprehensible course of conduct. She is represented, by a chronicler who loves and admires her, as bringing ruin upon herself and a certain degree of discredit upon her countrywomen, through eccentricities of behavior for which she cannot justly be held responsible. Her conduct is without blemish, according to the rural American standard, and she knows no other. It is the merest ignorance or affectation, on the part of the anglicized Americans of Boston or New York, to deny his. A few dozens, perhaps a few hundreds, of families in America have accepted the European theory of the necessity of surveillance for young ladies, but it is idle to say it has ever been accepted by the country at large. In every city of the nation young girls of good family, good breeding, and perfect innocence of heart and mind, receive their male acquaintances en tete-a- tete, and go to parties and concerts with them, unchaperoned. Of course, I do not mean that Daisy Miller belongs to that category; her astonishing mother at once designates her as pertaining to one distinctly inferior.
Who has not met them abroad? From the first word uttered by Miss Daisy to her rampant young brother in the garden at Vevay, “Well, I guess you’d better be quiet,” you recognize her, and recall her under a dozen different names and forms. She went to dine with you one day at Sceaux, and climbed, with the fearless innocence of a bird, into the great chestnut-tree. She challenged you to take her to Schonbrunn, and amazed your Austrian acquaintances whom you met there, and who knew you were not married. At Naples, one evening— Eheu, fugaces labuntur anni; it is not worth while to continue the enumeration. It akes you feel melancholy to think she is doing the same acts of innocent recklessness with men as young and as happy, and what the French call as unenterprising, as you were once. As to the usefulness of this little book, it seems to me as indubitable as its literary excellence. It is too long a question to discuss in this place, whether the freedom of American girls at home is beneficial or sinister in its results. But there is no question whatever as to the effect of their ignorance or defiance of conventionalities abroad. An innocent flirtation with a Frenchman or Italian tarnishes a reputation forever.
All the waters of the Mediterranean cannot wash clean the name of a young lady who makes a rendezvous and takes a walk with a fascinating chance acquaintance. We need only refer to the darker miseries which often result from these reckless intimacies. A charming young girl, traveling with a simple-minded mother, a few years ago, in a European capital, married a branded convict who had introduced himself to them, calling himself, of course, a count. In short, an American girl, like Daisy Miller, accompanied by a woman like Daisy’s mother, brought up in the simplicity of provincial life in the United States, has no more hance of going through Europe unscathed in her feelings and her character than an idiot millionaire has of amusing himself economically in Wall Street. This lesson is taught in Mr. James’s story,—and never was necessary medicine administered in a form more delightful and unobtrusive. The intimacy with the courier is a fact of daily observation on the Continent. A gentleman of my acquaintance, inquiring the other day for a courier he had employed some years before, was told that he was spoiled for any reasonable service by having been so much with American families, nd that one family, after their tour in Europe was ended, had taken him home to South Boston as their guest, and had given a party for him! (pp. 88-91) Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Howells, William Dean. “Defense of Daisy Miller. ” Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James. Ed. Albert Mordell. Twayne Publishers, 1961. 88-91. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420015070&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w
Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420015070 Literature Resource Center Barnett, Louise K. “Jamesian Feminism: Women in ‘Daisy Miller’. ” Studies in Short Fiction16. 4 (Fall 1979): 281-287. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420025346&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w Title: Jamesian Feminism: Women in ‘Daisy Miller’ Author(s): Louise K. Barnett Publication Details: Studies in Short Fiction 16. 4 (Fall 1979): p281-287. Source: Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J.
Sheets. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. From Literature Resource Center. Document Type: Critical essay [Image Omitted: Gale] Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning Full Text: [(essay date 1979) In the following essay, Barnett asserts that James proposes more options for women in Daisy Miller than in any of his other stories or novels. ] Although Henry James satirizes the idea of a women’s movement in The Bostonians, his constant exploration of the tension between individual self-realization and social restriction often focuses upon the way in which society particularly shapes he behavior of women. A number of James’s heroines must give up some degree of personal fulfilment and freedom because of social realities. The fine spirit of Isabel Archer is “ground in the very mill of the conventional,” just as Marie de Vionnet, another valued heroine, must be sacrificed to Chad Newsome’s social obligations of marriage and career. Kate Croy and Charlotte Stant struggle against the limitations placed upon them by their social position as women without means. Resignedly or ruefully, all of these women accept the terms of society, try to achieve self-realization within its onfines, and remain within the system after their defeat. Only in Daisy Miller does James portray a woman whose innocent devotion to her own natural behavior causes her to flout society wilfully and persistently. The contrast between what Daisy wants and what other women in the novella have, and between the amount of freedom allowed by society to Daisy and to Winterbourne, constitutes James’s clearest indictment of the restrictions society imposes specifically on women. Through a number of emblematic settings ranging from the castle of Chillon to the Protestant cemetery, and through a spectrum of characters, Daisy Miller explores the ptions available to women. The odyssey of experience which Daisy, “the child of nature and of freedom” [“Preface,” Daisy Miller, 1909], undergoes reveals society’s desire to confine women within a narrow and rigidly defined sphere. While those women who accept their circumscribed existence pay varying prices of neurotic illness, ineffectuality, and hypocrisy, the woman who ignores social prescription is punished by ostracism and death. Although the women characters uphold the system which restricts them, the chief arbiter of society for Daisy is a man, the aptly-named Winterbourne.
As a definer and enforcer of the bourne or boundary of social propriety, whose verdict has the life-denying implications of winter, Winterbourne represents the masculine world which has ultimate control over the lives of women. Significantly, Winterbourne is strongly attached to Geneva, a city identified with Calvinism and its social reflection, a decorum which is both narrowly conventional and hypocritically relaxed. The innocent and natural association of young people is strictly controlled and even discouraged: “In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young an was not at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady except under certain rarely occurring conditions. ” Such a view is sustained in Rome by Mrs. Walker, a lady who “had spent several winters at Geneva” and is thus linked to Winterbourne’s position both seasonally and geographically. In spite of the severity with which Geneva controls the behavior of young unmarried girls, married women of a certain age enjoy a clandestine sort of freedom, vaguely conveyed by James’s statement that some “singular stories” existed about Winterbourne’s mysterious foreign lady. Geneva also rescribes a standard of conduct towards relatives, which Winterbourne dutifully conforms to: “He had imbibed at Geneva the idea that one must always be attentive to one’s aunt. ” Although Winterbourne from time to time expresses an awareness that Geneva has narrowed his perspective, he is unwilling to repudiate its values. When Daisy upbraids him for seeking out Mrs. Walker’s company in Rome rather than her own, she remarks: “‘You knew her at Geneva. . . . Well, you knew me at Vevey. That’s just as good’. ” Daisy has no way of knowing that Geneva prescribed the familial obligation that brought
Winterbourne to Vevey; his real world is “the dark old city at the other end of the lake. ” Daisy’s unsuccessful attempt to be a natural and free person within a rigid and hypocritical society is framed by Winterbourne’s coming from and returning to Geneva, its Calvinistic code of social behaviorand its allowable liaisons with older women. With Winterbourne as observer and mediator, Daisy Miller develops as a series of confrontations between Daisy and those women who live under the sign of Geneva. In the resort world of Vevey, where Winterbourne and Daisy first meet, social decorum is mbodied in Winterbourne’s aunt. Denied a more constructive career, Mrs. Costello has channeled her energies into the negative occupation of social exclusiveness. Always on the verge of realization about the life-inhibiting aspects of conventionality, Winterbourne finds Mrs. Costello’s picture of the “minutely hierarchical constitution” of the society she presides over “almost oppressively striking. ” Herself victimized by the demands of propriety, Mrs. Costello has internalized the rules of society and devoted herself to oppressing others in its name. In the service of these standards her will has become so nflexible that she tells her nephew, apropos of acknowledging the social existence of the Millers: “‘I would if I could, but I can’t’. ” Nevertheless, more than a touch of pique may be felt in her comment to Winterbourne: “‘Of course a man may know every one. Men are welcome to the privilege! ‘” That Mrs. Costello might have been more at home in this larger masculine world seems likely: her lack of rapport with her children indicates that she was ill-suited to the maternal role. She is described as “a person of much distinction, who frequently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick-headaches, she would robably have left a deeper impress upon her time. ” Believing that there is a disparity between potential and achievement in her life, Mrs. Costello has sick headaches both as a rationalization for and a psychogenic response to her frustrations. Mrs. Costello’s exclusiveness prevents her from censuring Daisy’s behavior in person, a task undertaken in Rome by Mrs. Walker, “the lady from Geneva. ” While Mrs. Walker strenuously opposes Daisy’s walking about without a proper escort, her name suggests that by virtue of conforming to the conventions–being a mature married woman–she is allowed to walk with more freedom than society allows Daisy.
Because she prefers a carriage, however, Mrs. Walker’s name may be an ironic reflection of the confinement of her own spirit within socially prescribed boundaries. Her “little crimson drawing-room . . . filled with southern sunshine” indicates a passionate nature, but Daisy’s remark that Mrs. Walker’s small rooms are suited to conversation rather than dancing shows that this nature is not given physical expression. Ineffectual and ignorant, Daisy’s mother is a still lesser version of the absolute represented by Mrs. Costello. As she says to Winterbourne about Giovanelli: “‘I suppose he knows I’m a lady’. Bewildered by an unfamiliar milieu, which makes her social lapses more plausible, Mrs. Miller nevertheless advances hesitant prescriptions which show a rudimentary sense of the proprieties in force at Geneva. When Daisy complains about her brother, Mrs. Miller rebukes this violation of family loyalty. She also expresses a feeling of vague impropriety when Randolph is boastful and when Daisy refuses to say whether or not she is engaged. Mostly, Mrs. Miller fails to see social infractions because she has a decidedly practical bent. When Mrs. Walker warns Daisy that her contemplated walk on the Pincio is not safe, Mrs.
Miller immediately thinks of the danger to her daughter’s health rather than to her reputation. Her explanation of Daisy’s delayed arrival at Mrs. Walker’s party is similarly unsophisticated: the impracticality of Daisy’s dressing so early obscures for Mrs. Miller the impropriety of her remaining alone with her Italian suitor. Like Mrs. Costello’s headaches, Mrs. Miller’s dyspepsia is both a response to the paucity of meaningful activity in her life and a substitute for it. She becomes animated only when discussing her illness, an affliction which at least makes her important to one person–her doctor: ‘He has so much to do, and yet there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. He said he never saw anything like my dyspepsia, but he was bound to cure it. I’m sure there was nothing he wouldn’t try. He was just going to try something new when we came off. Mr. Miller wanted Daisy to see Europe for herself. But I wrote to Mr. Miller that it seems as if I couldn’t get on without Dr. Davis’. ” The European trip which deprives Mrs. Miller of this one entirely satisfactory human relationship was commanded by her husband. Given a luxurious leisure which she can make little use of, and unable to play a significant aternal role for her headstrong children, Mrs. Miller has a chance to exhibit competence only during Daisy’s fatal illness. With a limited and specific task, that of nursing her daughter, she is able to be efficient and, for once, “perfectly composed. ” Of the two vistas to be seen from Vevey–“the sunny crest of the Dent du Midi and the picturesque towers of the Castle of Chillon”–one images the world of nature and, metaphorically, Daisy’s character; the other is a symbol of the societal repression whose less obvious forms constrain the other women in James’s novella. To the Daisy
Winterbourne meets at Vevey society means people, particularly gentlemen admirers. Successful in the more fluid ambience of New York, where even Winterbourne’s proper cousins are “tremendous flirts,” Daisy neither feels the weight of nor comprehends the prohibitions of society expressed in Mrs. Costello’s snub. Her reaction is merely unoffended wonder: “‘Gracious! she is exclusive! ‘” Another embodiment of society’s power, the castle of Chillon, is equally uninstructive to Daisy. It is fitting that Winterbourne should guide Daisy on the excursion to Chillon–the first of a series of uxtapositions of Daisy to a symbol of group tyranny over the individual–for after his first impulse to take Daisy’s part against his aunt, Winterbourne consistently tries to persuade Daisy to abide by the social proprieties. Daisy’s response to the paraphernalia of punishment is instinctive antipathy: “She flirted back with a pretty little cry and a shudder from the edge of the oubliettes. ” Chillon is an emblem of society’s severest forms of repression, but Daisy has not yet perceived its relevance to herself. Winterbourne follows up his introduction to Daisy with a continuing effort to place her in he proper social category, but the stereotypes he tries to apply–“pretty American flirt,” “nice girl,” “young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect”– always turn out to be inadequate. Because the forms of social behavior obviate the need of individual decision–prescribing the correct treatment of aunts, unmarried girls, and married women–finding the right label for Daisy, reifying her with the application of some pat formula, would reassure Winterbourne. Uncertain how to categorize Daisy, he is correspondingly uncertain how to act towards her and is reduced to taking his cues rom her. Daisy resists his classification and thus eludes his comprehension. After Vevey, where Mrs. Costello and Chillon suggest the ostracism and confinement society accords its rebels, Daisy is made aware of society’s disapprobation by Mrs. Walker’s attempt to enclose her both within her carriage and within her social code. Taking a position she never retreats from, Daisy expresses a desire to alter society rather than her own behavior. She concludes, meaningfully: “‘If I didn’t walk I should expire’. ” Walking is the simple physical activity performed by an autonomous individual nd also the motion of life itself, in contrast to the rigidity of social prescription and the stasis of death. For Daisy, life without the freedom to move under her own power and by her own direction is unthinkable. When Daisy turns from Mrs. Walker’s importunings to Winterbourne, she exhibits a realization that men are the final arbiters and wielders of power. Her appeal is not for the social truth Winterbourne gives her, but for support. Instead of joining Winterbourne in the repressive world of social propriety which his stiffness reflects, Daisy wishes to entice him into her pastoral world of innocence and spontaneity.
Winterbourne is tempted, as he was at Vevey, but social decorum impels him to acquiesce to a lady’s command, i. e. , to join Mrs. Walker in her carriage. His reluctance to accompany his friend and his pondered comment–“‘I suspect . . . that you and I have lived too long at Geneva! ‘”–reveal Winterbourne’s irritation at this point with the restrictions imposed by propriety. When pressed by Mrs. Walker to give up Daisy, he vacillates characteristically. In asserting that there will be “nothing scandalous” in his attentions to Daisy, Winterbourne still imagines that he can have both Daisy and society, but in alking towards his aunt’s residence and away from Daisy, he shows his most deeply felt commitment. And, of course, he casually exercises a prerogative denied to Daisy– that of freely walking about alone. The climax of the novella makes Winterbourne’s position clear to Daisy; in his rejection she sees the impossibility of having both freedom and social approval, individuality and community. Significantly, the Roman fever which later kills Daisy is first mentioned in conjunction with her intention of behaving improperly by walking to the Pincio alone. Her death establishes a link between social disapproval and fever: had Daisy not violated a ocial taboo by going to the Colosseum at night with Giovanelli, she would not have been exposed to the fever. Daisy’s own remarks give a further twist to the theme of society’s responsibility. Before Winterbourne explicitly rejects her, Daisy affirms her good health: “‘I never was sick, and I don’t mean to be! ‘” After he pronounces his judgment, made in the name of that Geneva doctrine which keeps young women under strict surveillance, Daisy no longer cares whether or not she gets malaria. Both Winterbourne’s and Giovanelli’s lack of susceptibility to the fever reiterates again the theme of society’s imprisonment of women.
Men already have the prerogatives which Daisy lays claim to: it should be just as imprudent for Giovanelli or Winterbourne to go to the Colosseum, but the first shrugs off the danger while the second thinks of it only after satisfying his desire to imbibe the romantic atmosphere for a bit. James’s description draws our attention to the enchantment of the setting: The evening was charming, and he promised himself the satisfaction of walking home beneath the Arch of Constantine and past the vaguely lighted monuments of the Forum. There was a waning moon in the sky, and her radiance was not brilliant, but she was eiled in a thin cloud curtain which seemed to diffuse and equalize it. When, on his return from the villa (it was eleven o’clock), Winterbourne approached the dusky circle of the Colosseum, it occurred to him, as a lover of the picturesque, that the interior, in the pale moonshine, would be well worth a glance. He turned aside and walked to one of the empty arches, near which, as he observed, an open carriage–one of the little Roman streetcabs–was stationed. Then he passed in, among the cavernous shadows of the great structure, and emerged upon the clear and silent arena. The place had never seemed to him more impressive.
One-half of the gigantic circus was in deep shade, the other was sleeping in the luminous dusk. The division of the ruin into light and dark areas, and the recitation of Byron broken off in mid-quote, illustrate Winterbourne’s conflict: his oscillation between Daisy and the customs of “the dark old city,” between the risk-taking of individual assertion and the safety of social prudence. James’s vivid rendering of the scene, which impresses us with its charm and powers of attraction, indirectly points up another contrast. Winterbourne’s innocent desire to see the Colosseum by moonlight is socially cceptable, albeit medically unwise. The same innocent desire in Daisy is a scandalous violation of propriety. In death Daisy returns to nature, but she is also locked away in a place suggestive of Geneva, the Protestant cemetery. Hypocritically, the society which ostracized her turns out for her burial in a “number larger than the scandal excited by the young lady’s career would have led you to expect, perhaps in vindication of the collective mores no longer threatened by Daisy. Winterbourne returns almost immediately to his life in Geneva, “stiff” because of its repression of natural feelings and its rigidly conventional ehavior, but safe because it lacks the puzzling and unpredictable qualities of natural self-expression. Daisy remains the most uncompromising and uninhibited of James’s many freedom- seeking heroines, a resister of patriarchal authority who “has never allowed a gentleman to dictate to [her] or to interfere with anything [she does]. She breaks rather than bending to social demands. Mrs. Costello’s mocking gossip, Mrs. Walker’s overt rudeness, and Winterbourne’s final cruel rejection of Daisy all reveal the entity opposing her to be mean-spirited and reductive, able to respond only in a negative fashion to natural vitality and innocence.
In creating a spectrum of socially approved but sterile feminine existences, James contrasts Daisy’s desire for freedom with the confinement of other women in artificial and trivial spheres. Ironically, much of the freedom society prohibits to Daisy is allowable to Winterbourne, but he has confined himself within a sterile and restricted mode of existence, the victim of his own temperament and choice rather than of society’s coercion. Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Barnett, Louise K. “Jamesian Feminism: Women in ‘Daisy Miller’. ” Studies in Short Fiction16. 4 (Fall 1979): 281-287. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism.
Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420025346&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420025346 Literature Resource Center Deakin, Motley F. “Daisy Miller, Tradition, and the European Heroine. ” Comparative Literature Studies 6. 1 (Mar. 1969): 45-59. Rpt. in Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2013. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. Document URL http://go. galegroup. com/ps/i. do? id=GALE %7CH1420025343&v=2. 1&u=wash89460&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w
Title: Daisy Miller, Tradition, and the European Heroine Author(s): Motley F. Deakin Publication Details: Comparative Literature Studies 6. 1 (Mar. 1969): p45-59. Source: Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale. From Literature Resource Center. Document Type: Critical essay [Image Omitted: Gale] Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning Full Text: [(essay date 1969) In the following essay, Deakin places the character of Daisy Miller within the European tradition. ] When William Dean Howells selected Daisy Miller as the one Jamesian character to emphasize in his Heroines of Fiction, he did her two great services.
First, he, as the dean of American critics, certified her important position in both the Jamesian canon and in the literary world at large. Second, he affirmed by both precept and example that she would be understood best not as an isolated phenomenon but as a part of a literary tradition. The reasons for Daisy’s significance have been examined often enough; one need only add that since Howells stated his preference, other Jamesian heroines– Isabel Archer most forcefully, and, not far behind her, Milly Theale and Maggie Verver– have challenged his prescriptive choice. In contrast, Daisy’s relevance as a henomenon within some particular literary tradition does need to be studied. We do not know enough about what influences conditioned her conception. If we follow Howell’s precedent, then we find that this tradition is purely English and American, the heroines of which “are of easily distinguishable types, and their evolution in their native Anglo-Saxon environment has been, in no very great lapse of time, singularly uninfluenced from without. ” Which all sounds most promising until we begin examining the American part of this tradition and Daisy Miller in particular, for then the usefulness of Howells’ assertion becomes questionable.
The tradition that Howells presents in his two-volume study is overwhelmingly English; what is American is but a fraction, or, as Howells describes it, “wilding off-shoots,” whose main representatives– whose very substance really–constrict to only Hawthorne’s heroines and Daisy Miller herself. We wonder about the importance and memorableness of Howells’ other examples in that American tradition: Marjorie Daw, Miggles, Nellie Armitage, Aurora Nuncanou, Jane Marshall, Jane Field. We are even puzzled at how we can place them in this tradition Howells is postulating when, without his aid, we would first have to uess at the identity of many of them. Nor, when we try to place Daisy Miller in Howells’ English tradition, can we find much resemblance between her and Emma Woodhouse or Jeanie Deans, Amelia Sedley or Dorothea Brooke, who seem representative in one way or another of the host he lists. Only occasionally, in, say Elizabeth Bennet or Catherine Earnshaw or Clara Middleton, does one find qualities in these English heroines that seem comparable to Daisy’s; and we might further note that though Howells presents the two earlier heroines, curiously he did not like Meredith’s novels nd had not readThe Egoist. So, though we can accept Howells’ premises, his guidelines are not too helpful. Looking to James for aid, we find his position not so explicit as we would wish. Certainly he was conscious of the need for tradition, especially for the literary artist: his admiration for Balzac and his study of Hawthorne are evidence enough. But to him Daisy was as ostensibly American as empirical evidence could make her; she was representative of an evanescent phenomenon that suddenly appeared on the European scene during the decade 1860-70 and then as quickly vanished. These facts taken at ace value make Daisy an objective rendering of an existing reality without any marked relation to a literary tradition, American or otherwise. But though one may wish to read Daisy Miller in this way, he must recognize too that the creative mind seldom works so simply, and certainly not James’s. We should remember that several of James’s early efforts in fiction, including that so obviously American novel,Washington Square, are adaptations of literary works by foreign authors. We should recall too that James’s personal experience as a boy and a young man had, in large part, nullified for him any chauvinistic notion of what constitutes an ndividual’s identity. His impulse was always to break beyond the national boundary, and when he could not do so physically, he found his escape through books. So what James brought to the creation of Daisy was a sense of life that, for his generation, was singularly emancipated and broadly informed. And though James may have styled himself a realist, the world of his mind, as evidenced in his fiction, is one replete with ambiguities and complexities, images and figures, that had been actuated, not by knowing the security and stability of living in one place, but rather by experiencing the ension and excitement of moving through the flux of new and continually changing environments. The one constant that remains is human nature, which in an important, ultimate sense is unweighted by larger, social or nationalistic identifications. All of this means that insofar as Daisy is concerned, James most probably would not have seen her simply as the product of Schenectady but, rather, would have taken what he needed in her creation from whatever sources were available–sources which for him were various. InDaisy Miller the result should be something less clear and simple than would t first appear, and the character of Daisy should exemplify some attributes that would transcend the limiting identifications of upstate New York or even of America. The clue to this literary tradition we are seeking lies, I think, in James’s placing Daisy in a scene neither English nor American, and in the insistence of both James and Howells that this character in this scene postulates the International Situation. For proof we note that James has set Daisy in an atmosphere reverberating with other names and other histories which impinge upon and color our response to Daisy–names and histories hich do not belong just to the other characters in the story but rather are evoked by the setting or other referents. Thus we should recognize that Daisy is moving in and being influenced by a new and different world, not necessarily the same as the world of the transplanted American dowagers who surround her. This is a world long since familiar to James both as fact and fiction. As a tourist he had attentively watched and noted what he needed for the realistic accouterment of a Daisy Miller. But just as important, as a “devourer of libraries” he had already observed many ther fictive heroines move through this same setting–heroines who, because of similar forces and tensions conditioning them, may be found to resemble Daisy both in their attributes and their fates. It is significant that Daisy is American, but it is equally significant that the great crisis of her life is experienced in Europe. Expressed in terms of literary influence, one could say that James’s affinities with the continental authors were, in his early maturity, stronger than what he felt for the English, and though the American Hawthorne certainly exerted his influence, he was but one against whole array of other, equally significant but non-American writers. Thus one would expect that if a literary tradition helpful in enlarging our understanding of Daisy Miller is to be found, it would more probably appear in the novels of these European authors James admired than in the Anglo-Saxon tradition Howells postulated. In his critical essays James has left an abundant record of his reading. Looking through them we are struck by the frequency with which he notes and delineates the fictive heroines he encountered. With persistence he expresses admiration for them while at the same time ignoring the masculine element he may have met.
But even among the heroines he discriminates, selecting for special commendation those young maidens who demonstrate a flair of independent individuality that reminds one of Daisy. If we try to place these heroines in some kind of order, we soon become aware that it is not so profitable to try to determine when the young James read what novel. However, it is important to realize that James’s interests tend to attenuate as the authors he read are removed from him chronologically; his favorites seem to be of his generation or, more often, that of his father, but certainly not much more removed than that of his grandfather.
But even within this relatively short period of time, if we place in chronological order those fictive heroines who both fascinated James and have qualities comparable to Daisy’s, we still can construct a tradition significant in both its fictive and its historic connotations. The development of this tradition, and particularly of Daisy’s place in it, is best seen if we approach it at that point in time most contiguous to Daisy. So we must start with Turgenev, whom James both admired and knew personally. His heroines appeared to James to be “one of the most striking groups the modern novel has given us” [“Ivan
Turgenieff,” The Art of Fiction and other Essays, 1948]. James’s admiration even carried him to the point of asserting a similarity between the American and Russian characters: “Russian young girls . . . have to our sense a touch of the faintly acrid perfume of the New England temperament–a hint of Puritan angularity” [“Ivan Turgenieff,” French Poets and Novelists, 1908]. In these heroines James found a strong will, an ability to resist, to wait, a sense of honor more exigent than that of the men they love. Their strength of character is so powerful that it exceeds their formal significance in their espective novels; though they are not centers of the novels in which they appear, they often dominate them. The best examples are Marianna (Virgin Soil) and Elena (On the Eve). As future brides of revolutionaries, their assurance and sense of purpose commend them as embodiments of a Daisy-like independence of spirit. Dedicated to freedom, both personal and public, they resent oppression and inequality. “Justice satisfies but does not gladden them; while injustice, to which they are frightfully sensitive, stirs them up to the very bottom of the soul” [Ivan Turgenieff, The Novels and Stories of Ivan Turgenieff, 1904].
But, despite their unselfish devotion to commendable ideals, they irritate a public that thinks they set a bad example for other girls. They are iconoclasts. Unlike Daisy, who is usually accepted as at least representative of part of that American society from which she comes, Turgenev’s heroines personify a disturbing new force in Russian society. Marianna is proud and surly: “rom her whole being there emanated a strong and daring, impetuous and passionate element. ” She longs for freedom “with all the force of [her] unyielding soul,” a freedom to be realized only in a complete, selfless dedication to a noble cause [Turgenieff].
Elena, James’s expressed favorite, has this same impetuous and passionate element. Like Marianna, she thirsts for the opportunity to do good, to help the poor, the hungry, and the sick. Leading an intense but lonely life, she ignores parental authority, asserting her independence at the age of sixteen. She dawdles in boredom until, through love and a new-found sense of purpose it embodies, she discovers a direction for her life. Finally, she realizes personal freedom through her dedication to the cause of political freedom which her husband symbolizes. The response of these two heroines to life is not formed so much by a groping ignorance as y an intuitive understanding of the forces that impel them to action. Their activities are not marked by the gaucheries and surges of pudency that usually characterize young innocence. Instead, they move with assurance to their fates. As literary cousins of Daisy Miller, they offer a sense of liberating humanity, a strength and moral beauty that to some extent informs James’s own creation. But there is a difference: Daisy knows only a present, whereas Turgenev’s heroines anticipate a future, even though over that future hangs the pall of death. Moving back in time to Victor Cherbuliez, a French author whose heroine is actually ited inDaisy Miller and thus is the most obvious link with this tradition we are tracing, we find on examining his novel Paule Mere that the stories of James and Cherbuliez have much in common. They both explore the theme of social disorientation, examining the effects of rigid conventions on a young girl not sympathetic to them. Like Daisy Miller, Paule Mere relies for its clash of personal and social attitudes in part on regional and national distinctions, though it also derives some of its effect from the more romantic concept of the superior, liberated role of the artist in society. The male rotagonists in both novels cannot resist the pressures of convention, thus exposing the unprotected heroines to the crushing power of these pressures. Both novels present a protest against these inhuman social forces, but both also contain the bitter recognition that they are invincible, destroying as they do the young innocents. Paule Mere is the child of a Venetian dancer and a Genevan father of strict Calvinistic background, a background that informs, to an extent, Winterbourne’s character in Daisy Miller. Since the paternal side of the family thought it best that the child be removed rom the environment of the theater, she is given into the care of her father’s parents on the condition that her mother not see her. The child is raised in this somber Geneva household, always cautioned against her tainted maternal ancestry, but always secretly drawn to the brilliant image of her mother. From her mother she has inherited a talent for and delight in aesthetic pleasures, but she is compelled to look upon them as sinful. Finding it impossible to suppress her artistic impulses, she seeks refuge with friends. Misunderstood by society and finally by the man whom she loves, she “dies of a broken eart because her spontaneity passes for impropriety” [James, Transatlantic sketches, 1888]. This innocent and ardent spirit must exist in a society whose password is Qu’en dira-t-on? She is imprudent, perhaps, but this is “la derniere vertu qu’apprennent les ames genereuses” [Paul Mere]. For herself and those whom she loves, she insists on a faith in the integrity of one’s spirit that would transcend conventions and appearances. But in the opinion of this society’s religious leader, M. Gerard, Paule suffers from two incurable maladies, “le mepris des convenances et le gout du fruit defendu. Judging her most generously, this society can only say: Voulez-vous savoir son plus grand defaut? Cette chere enfant a mauvaise tete. On a toujours les defauts de ses qualites. Sa droiture est cause qu’elle manque de souplesse; elle ne sait pas se plier aux circonstances ni patienter avec la vie, et quand la vie lui manque de parole, la chaleur de ses ressentiments trouble la justesse naturelle de son jugement. In this society a young girl who respects herself can take seriously only “le tricotage, la couture et le catechisme. ” It regards “l’enthousiasme, l’imagination, toute superiorite de ‘esprit comme autant de dangers et de pieges tendus a la vertu. ” The weight of its disapprobation finally destroys Paule Mere. But though James does give special prominence to Paule Mere, he could have found just as adequate an analogue for Daisy from the long list of feminine protagonists created by that earlier and greater artist, George Sand. He knew her novels and in his early criticism wrote admiringly of them. These heroines are often creatures of instinct and impressions, natural and simple in their responses. Rarely well-educated, they exemplify a self-learned, self-imposed creed that distinguishes them from other haracters in these novels. Even Indiana, the simplest and weakest of them, has a will of iron, an incalculable force of resistance against any oppression, even to the point of death, the fate of many of these heroines. Forced back upon themselves by their unwillingness to accede to the demands of society, they have developed habits of introspection and self-examination. They are superior women in their dedication, their moral virtue, or their genius. Though rarely exhibiting great physical courage, “elles ont souvent le courage moral qui s’exalte avec le peril ou la souffrance” [George Sand,Indiana, 1948].
They are a compound of sentiment and intelligence. When they surrender to sentiment they suffer; when they are guided by intelligence they survive, but only at the risk of renouncing something cherished. To Consuelo, who embodies so much of the best in George Sand, this desire for renunciation is instinctive but is supported and made rational by her dedication to her art, an attitude congenial to James as person and as author. The situations of these heroines are often morally ambiguous. Unattached, at variance with society, they often suffer from the acts of men weaker or more conscious of convention than they.
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Surrounded by selfishness and intrigue, they are victimized by appearances and their own generous natures. Sometimes they succeed in retaining their social integrity, sometimes they fail, but, as their author intended, they always capture the sympathies of the reader. Unlike Cherbuliez, Sand does not make use of the International Situation, seeking no further than personal or family attachment for relevant social compulsion. Indiana is Creole, but socially this does little more than make her a provincial. Of greater significance is Consuelo’s early attachment to Venice, for this city
Critical Essays On Daisy Miller
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In a certain sense, Henry James’s “Daisy Miller" seems to reflect a time that has passed, a time in which the notion of literal physical and geographical mobility was just beginning to facilitate one’s social mobility. In “Daisy Miller," the reader encounters characters who travel and insert themselves into other societies simply as a means of asserting and affirming their social pedigree. The setting of Daisy Miller is one characterized by parties and salons that demand proper manners and a practiced formality; as such, the relevance and familiarity of such a setting may seem utterly foreign to the contemporary reader. Nonetheless, James’s message in the short story about the psychological implications of a society characterized by sharply divided social classes remains pertinent in our own time.Henry James does not necessarily condemn the hierarchical structure of social class in this short story, but what he does seem to convey in this story is his empathy for people like the title character, Daisy Miller, who struggle to move beyond the confines of the class into which they were born and who, in doing so, create fraudulent, pathetic versions of themselves. James is not saying that we should not strive to be better or to surmount our circumstances; however, he is advocating that we do so authentically, and he achieves the effective delivery of this message by developing the character of Daisy in great detail while ensuring that she does not mature. Daisy Miller is not, the reader learns, Daisy Miller after all. Her “real name’s Annie P. Miller" (11), and this early revelation about Daisy signals that she is a person who wants so much to change who she is that she will go so far as to alter her name. Names are, in fact, important in the society to which she is trying to gain access and acceptance, but what Daisy fails to realize in this short story by Henry James is that there are many other nuanced behaviors that are required for one to be a credible member of high society. She is adept at mimicking the dress and the desires of the European upper class; however, she lacks the refinement and, in particular, the taste and good manners of the people she wants to befriend. Although she claims that she is “very fond of society, and [has] always had a great deal of it” (14), Mrs. Walker and the ladies of her rank recognize that Daisy is uncouth and coarse. Even Winterbourne observes that Daisy “is completely uncultivated" (21). “But," he adds, “she is wonderfully pretty, and, in short, she is very nice" (21), and for this reason, he is willing to give her the chance that the ladies will not.
Ultimately, Daisy is unable to realize her dream of becoming a woman she is not. In fact, her trip and the subsequent illness that she contracts and which causes her death seem to represent much more than the termination of her physical life. James expertly delivers his message about the futility of being someone that one is not by permitting this unhappy ending for Daisy. James did not feel the need or pressure to make Daisy mature. Daisy never develops true insight into herself or into social hierarchies because she is insistent that she should not “change my habits for them" (61). While in this sense, she remains true to who she is, Daisy cannot accept who she is, and her desire to always be someone more literally kills her. In “Daisy Miller," then, the reader finds a cautionary tale about managing the tension between desire and authenticity, and in particular, psychological issues related to social class.
James, Henry. Daisy Miller and Other Stories. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1998.
on�m ta�؋� depiction of Detective Mike using masculine terminology. Her voice is deep and rasping, masculine in tone and volume after years of smoking and drinking. Her attitude and interpersonal skills are not traditionally feminine; she is rough around the edges, she is not particularly careful about the words she chooses to talk to others about tough subjects, her speech is peppered with vulgarities, and her work has apparently worn her down to the point that the most brutal and devastating scenes are simply commonplace. At the same time, though, Detective Mike does maintain some feminine qualities and habits that can be found his quotes and actions, among them, a boyfriend named Deniss. These qualities and habits call any other image that we think we have constituted about the detective into question, frustrating a facile reading of Night Train.
Finally, Amis’s word choice, while often seeming not so well-considered, actually serves to reinforce the ambiguity that the characters and the narrative conflict of Jennifer’s death create. Is Amis compassionate about the death or is he callous? It is hard to tell, as he puts descriptions like “To-die-for-brilliant" and “Drop-dead beautiful" in Detective Mike’s mouth (Amis 4). Language in Night Train is slippery, constantly casting doubt about the characters’ and even the author’s own motives and emotions. Even the phrase “[W]e want suicides to be homicides" is problematic, as it fails to acknowledge the individuality of victims and sees them only as categories. These are but a few of the many ways in which Amis’s apparently thoughtless but actually well-crafted word choices emphasize the theme of the novel.
Amis’s Night Train is “deliberately, defiantly inconclusive" (Wolcott 64). In Night Train, Amis contests the notion of an “ideal world without disorder" (Turnbull 67). In the author’s world—and indeed, in ours—no such thing exists. The fact that the crime, if, in fact, it is a crime, is never solved means that the philosophical and psychological dilemma at the core of the novel is not resolved, either. Detective Mike’s observation that “[W]e want suicides to be homicides" is a reflection of our own attitude: we want everything to fit into a neat, explicable, graspable category. The world, however, is not neat. It is not orderly. It is messy and it is complicated, and somehow, we have to learn to live with that.
Amis, Martin. Night Train. New York: Harmony, 1998.
Turnbull, Sue. “‘Nice Dress, Take It Off’: Crime, Romance, and the Pleasure of the Text." International Journal of Cultural Studies 5.1 (2002): 67-82.
Wolcott, James. “Night Train." New Criterion 16.7 (1998): 64.