American Innocence vs. European Sophistication

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Henry James’s short novel, “Daisy Miller: A Study”, was written in 1878. Winterbourne, a young American gentleman, is visiting his aunt in Switzerland when he meets the beautiful and spontaneous American, Daisy Miller. The story is about Daisy falling victim to an ancient world’s customs clashing with the mannerisms of the new world she is from. “Daisy Miller: A Study” explores the differences of two different social classes with Daisy being faced with seething judgment for her uncultivated American ways in a sophisticated European society through the analysis of literary devices. James’ descriptions of Daisy Miller presents a character that is unsophisticated, naïve, and rash, yet innocent and beautiful. The moment Winterbourne lays eyes on Daisy he immediately realizes that she is a beautiful woman when he thinks to himself that he “had not seen for a long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman’s various features” (James 424). As he converses with Daisy he gets a grasp on her mannerisms, which are very untraditional in the ancient setting of Europe. As Winterbourne states to his Aunt Costello, “She is completely uncultivated, but she is wonderfully pretty and, in short, she is very nice” (James 430). The more Winterbourne gets to know Daisy, the more he realizes just how truly lawless she is which could be considered to have been foreshadowed when Daisy said earlier in the story, “I have always had a great deal of gentlemen’s society” (James 426). Daisy’s rebellious character is repeatedly met with oppression to be more cultivated and lady like. However, even as people of the European society tell Daisy that her actions are “not the custom here” (James 446), she resists their accusations and clearly shows her unwill... ... middle of paper ... of society’s standards is only magnified when during a heated moment in the story she screams to Mrs. Walker, “If this is improper, Mrs. Walker, then I am improper and you must give me up.” During this moment, it’s quite evident that Daisy is not considered part of the sophisticated European society and she very much so an American acting like one. Henry James’ use of literary devices throughout the short novel artfully presents Daisy being faced with constant oppression against her for her irresponsible and ignorant ways during a specifically time period that was still to ancient of a society to handle the likes of a person as radical and youthful as Daisy Miller. Daisy representing America shows that during this time period when Americans were coming to Europe to expand their culture they were indeed clashing with the traditional customs of European culture.

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