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Published: 23-12-2019

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Daisy Miller: the subject of a research, and a narrative objective

“Daisy Miller: A Study” by Henry James, a story about an American girl in Europe named Daisy Miller, is told by an unknown narrator who only has access to the main character Winterbourne’s thoughts. The story is framed around Daisy Miller and her “abnormal behavior” as the topic of Winterbourne’s study. The third particular person limited omniscient narration of the story and the way Daisy Miller is portrayed in Winterbourne’s thoughts tends to make her character not only the subject of Winterbourne’s study in the story, but also an object in the general narrative.

In the story, Winterbourne makes a hobby of studying ladies. Towards the starting of the narrative, it is stated that he went to Geneva to “study” and implied that he was also there to be with an older foreign lady (1502). When Winterbourne initial meets Daisy Miller, he picks up many information about her and instantly tries to analyze her:

If she looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not specifically to hear him, this was basically her habit, her manner . . . He had a wonderful relish for feminine beauty he was addicted to observing and analyzing it and as regards this young lady’s face he created numerous observations. It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive and although it was eminently delicate, Winterbourne mentally accused it – extremely forgivingly – of a want of finish. (1504)

In this paragraph, Winterbourne describes Daisy as an object. He analyzes every single aspect of her face and tries to analyze her character by her appears and expressions, like a single would do when studying some thing not human. He decides for himself that he doesn’t offend her, and that if she seems indifferent to him, it is due to her mannerisms. This foreshadows the way Daisy is portrayed throughout the rest of the story. She is constantly analyzed and judged via the lens of Winterbourne’s judgments primarily based on her looks, mannerisms, and behaviors. He also decides that her face has a “want of finish”: this kind of judgment objectifies her as one thing that doesn’t really reside up to his ideal of perfection in regards to feminine beauty. Throughout the narrative, she is judged through somebody else’s perspective.

Winterbourne constantly operates to grasp an understanding of Daisy throughout the story as new events unfold. When Daisy starts to flirt with Giovanelli, Winterbourne makes his try again:

And then he came back to the query regardless of whether this was in fact a nice girl. Would a good girl – even permitting for her getting a tiny American flirt – make a rendezvous with a presumably low-lived foreigner? …It was impossible to regard her as a completely well conducted young lady she was wanting in a particular indispensable delicacy. It would therefore simplify matters greatly to be capable to treat her as the object of 1 of these sentiments, which are called by romancers “lawless passions”. (1524)

Again, Winterbourne analyzes Daisy with the hopes of being capable to classify her with a particular label. So far he has decided that she is a “little American flirt” and is grappling with regardless of whether or not she is a “nice girl.” He utilizes a set of social norms to attain the conclusion that she is not a “well-carried out young lady” due to the fact she is not delicate. He also straight states that it would simplify his analysis to just be in a position to view her as an “object of lawless passion.” Winterbourne wants to view her as an object for simplicity’s sake: she is nevertheless given no voice and we have no access to her thoughts, which deprives us of her rebuttal to Winterbourne’s claims that she is a flirty, indelicate “object of lawless passion”.

Winterbourne is also puzzled by Daisy several instances in the text: “Winterbourne was bewildered he stood staring . . . Daisy turned to Winterbourne, starting to smile once again. He was nevertheless more perplexed, for this inconsequent smile produced practically nothing clear…” (1530). To him, Daisy is unintelligible most of the time. The truth that he has such difficulty figuring her out presents her as unknown and inhuman to him, as if she was impossible to comprehend, and need to have be studied and classified like an animal in the wild. The only way he understands her is through his own perceptions of the indications of her behavior. Just as the readers have no access to her thoughts by way of the narrative structure, Winterbourne has no access to her thoughts in the story and alternatively tends to make up his personal definitions and labels for Daisy.

Finally, Winterbourne decides that he’s figured Daisy out and that he shouldn’t have bothered with her all along:

Winterbourne stopped, with a sort of horror and, it need to be added, with a sort of relief. It was as if a sudden illumination had been flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy’s behavior and the riddle had turn into effortless to read. She was a young lady whom a gentleman want no longer be at pains to respect . . . He felt angry with himself that he had bothered so significantly about the proper way of relating to Miss Daisy Miller.” (1536)

He decides to classify her as someone no longer worthy of respect or even of the work of his study. In this way, it becomes official that she is worthless: there is no gain for him in studying her. She isn’t even worthy of getting the sub-human object of a study.

Daisy Miller is the subject of Henry James’ text even although Winterbourne is the principal character. The narration, in which Winterbourne’s thoughts are the only ones we have access to, assist to keep Daisy Miller objectified: even although she is the object of study in the text, she has no voice other than her ambiguously flirtatious behaviors all through the story with which to defend herself against the labels and definitions of her that Winterbourne keeps insisting upon “figuring out.” In this way, she remains an object of the story.

Performs Cited

James, Henry. “Daisy Miller: A Study.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. ed. Julia Reidhead. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Firm Inc., 2003.
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