It is not as easy as it seems to distinguish who is innocent and who is not. Innocence is a cultural concept which is usually confusing. An act that is naïve and normal in one society can be a public disgrace in another. Then a question comes to mind: What is innocence? Challenging the norms of a society makes a person totally wicked? What spoils or preserves innocence? The word innocence is ambiguous. It has double vision because people put different masks on their faces for different occasions. Innocence is also one of the themes that can be focused on three American novels: Daisy Miller by Henry James, My Antonia by Willa Cather and the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. These three books help the reader to see the other side of the medallion and they suggest that it is our prejudices and cultural differences which shape our view of others.
To start with James' novella Daisy Miller, the reliability of the narrator can be discussed. Winterbourne, an American but a Europeanised man is told to be an "extremely amiable fellow, universally liked." Everything looks alright with him. There seems to be no way to discuss his honesty, his innocence can be discussed because he does not really try to help Daisy. He is only affected by her in a physical way. If he had a chance of flirting with Daisy, he would not miss that chance also he would not marry her. He regards her as an innocent, fresh, and young lady but also he thinks that he is common and unsophisticated
Winterbourne is not together with Daisy all the time. This is why his reliability as a source can be discussed. He is confused by her and t...
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... illusions. They live in a broken paradise. Their life is full of corruption, moral decadence, hypocrisy, abusive power of money and shattered dream. Theirs is a demoralized civilization. But their honesty and innocence are not only corrupted by inner forces but also by the environmental factors. They live in a time of excess. They are a lost generation and they are afraid of poverty and worship to success as Fitzgerald says.
To conclude James and Cather's novel characters have similar qualities. The females do not look moderate but they have a pure heart. Fitzgerald, who criticizes the corruption of American dream -not the dream itself- satirically presents seemingly respectable but actually spoiled and lost characters. These three novels tell the reader not to judge people just by appearance and they allow people to gain a new perspective on human behavior.
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