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A Character Analysis of Daisy Miller

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In Daisy Miller, Henry James slowly reveals the nature of Daisy"s character through her interactions with other characters, especially Winterbourne, the main character." The author uses third person narration; however, Winterbourne"s thoughts and point of view dominate." Thus, the audience knows no more about Daisy than Winterbourne." This technique helps maintain the ambiguity of Daisy"s character and draws the audience into the story.

At first glimpse, Daisy is portrayed as a "pretty American flirt" whose innocence Winterbourne is unsure of, and yet he says he was "almost grateful for having found the formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller" (James 1563)." Like many people do in first impressions, Winterbourne feels the need to label Daisy right away." In the beginning, the stereotype seems to fit." Daisy is young, unsophisticated, chatty, and brags about all the society, especially gentlemen"s society she had in New York (1562)." She enjoys teasing and getting reactions out of people just for the sake of it." For example, the second time she and Winterbourne meet, late one evening in the garden, she asks him if he wants to take her out in a boat on the lake." Of course, her mother and the courier protest while Daisy laughs and declares, "That"s all I want " a little fuss!"She had no intention of going; she just wanted to get a rise out of someone." Bidding good-night to Winterbourne, she says, "I hope you"re disappointed, disgusted, or something!" (1572)." She is being flirtatious, but this kind of teasing is also just part of her sense of humor.

Daisy Miller may be uneducated, as Winterbourne and his aunt describe her, but she is witty." One illustration of her humor takes place at Mrs. Walker"s party when Winterbourne is criticizing her for her relations with Giovanelli." He says they don"t "understand that sort of thing here"not in young married women."Daisy cries, "I thought they understood nothing else!" and goes on to say, "It seems to me more proper in young unmarried than in old married ones."Daisy typically speaks and behaves frankly, almost in a child-like fashion, but this shows, as the narrator describes it, a "startling worldly knowledge" (1587)." Daisy is somewhat rustic but smart." She has a "natural elegance" and a mixture of" "innocence and crudity," and yet, as seen in her response, her character proves to go beyond the boundaries of this character type of the natural beauty (1564 and 1574)."

Daisy"s character is complex." She is young and na"ve, but also very independent and confident. This combination of qualities is important to her identity." Her boldness may be due to not knowing any better, but she continues to do whatever she likes even after being advised against it.""For example, Mrs. Walker tries to rescue Daisy from her reckless evening walk with Giovanelli and Winterbourne by pleading with her to get in the carriage." With her usual nonchalance and tone of amusement, she refuses, even after the urging of Winterbourne." She says to Mrs. Walker, "if this is improper, than I"m all improper, and you had better give me right up", and then bids her good night (1582)." Daisy may act surprised that people would get certain ideas about her, but, in any case, she does not let anyone interfere with her decisions. Looking at Daisy"s mother, one can probably guess that Daisy has been allowed to do whatever she pleased all her life." Her mother " weak, sickly, and dependent on her children for company " exerts very little control over young Randolph or Daisy." Daisy " full of spirit and independence " is the exact opposite of her mother." The author may have purposefully contrasted these characters to emphasize their traits." Daisy may be this way naturally, on the other hand, she may have observed her mother growing up and made a conscious decision to be different.

Daisy Miller, in her complexity of innocence and brashness is significant to me, personally, because she is a believable character." There was a time in my life that I was a young girl, wanting to be live more freely but at the same time, bound by limitations and the desire to remain innocent." Just like Winterbourne, many young men are attracted to a young lady when they think she is a little wild and mysterious; however, they want the girl to be an innocent when there is the possibility of a pro-longed relationship." I, like Daisy, experimented with creating a balance between this two aspects and found amusement in the process.

On a broader scale, the character of Daisy Miller is also significant because she embodies the ideas of what it is to be American." She is uneducated and unsophisticated, at least in the eyes of the European society." She is an innocent, natural beauty, full of the spirit of youth and independence." She has her own mind about things and doesn"t hesitate to follow it, but in her naivety and youth, is sometimes vulnerable." Her ambiguity correlates with that of the future of a young America, still carving out its own values and traditions.


James, Henry. Daisy Miller." The Harper Single Volume American Literature."(3rd ed.)" Ed. al Donald McQuade." New York:" Longman, 1999." 1556-1597.

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