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Miss Daisy’s Innocence
In his novella, Daisy Miller, the author, Henry James, introduces a young American girl that causes turmoil in the American society in Europe. The story first takes place in the city of Vevay, Switzerland, where many Americans had lived during this time period. Here Daisy first meets Frederick Winterbourne. This is also the setting where Daisy’s innocence is first being questioned by the American/European society, in form of Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne’s aunt. Mrs. Costello said Daisy was “common,” and that her behavior was not “comme Il faut,” or as it is necessary, for she allowed gentlemen to court her unattended, including Winterbourne. Winterbourne, at this point did not view Daisy as inappropriate because he came to realize that American girls were now raised differently, less strict as they used to be. Through the course of the story the setting is changed to Rome, Italy, where more attention is brought to Daisy’s inappropriate behavior, for the American community is smaller than it was in Vevay, thus Daisy was seen under a microscope. In Rome, Daisy is being courted by the Italian “pseudo-gentleman,” Mr. Giovanelli. When Winterbourne came to Italy to see Daisy, he was expecting her to sit there and wait for him. Seeing Daisy with Mr. Giovanelli, and being influenced by his aunt, Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker, a mutual friend of Winterbourne and Daisy, his view of Daisy starts to change. Mrs. Walker, when first meeting Daisy, also thought of her as being innocent, thus it seemed natural to her that she could still talk sense into the young girl. When her attempt to talk to Daisy fails, Mrs. Walker is convinced that Daisy’s behavior is simply inappropriate. Mrs. Walker was upset when Daisy refused to get into the carriage with her, and felt rather hurt and offended. This feeling was topped when Daisy had the nerve to show up late to her party, and only attended by Mr. Giovanelli. Mrs. Walker was also the first person in this story to approach Daisy about her improper behavior. Before Mrs. Walker had done this, no one actually told Daisy straight out that she was improper. But when she refused to get into the carriage with Mrs. Walker, Daisy did not mean to rebel against her; she seriously thought it would be rude to leave Mr. Giovanelli out there, after they had made arrangements. Daisy’s actions in general were not meant to rebel or to harm someone. She simply did not know better. Her own mother did not think of her as improper. All this time, her mother tolerated Daisy’s behavior and actions. Daisy had the privilege of not having her mother lock her into a “golden cage.” Also did Daisy seem to have a strong need for attention, especially that of males. This could be a result of the neglectful treatment of her father, the most influential man in her life, who never had time for her. One could say she had no guidance and direction from her parents. Daisy is very innocent of the fact that she is being improper. She has very little understanding of the values of European society. Her innocence could also be described as naivety. She does what she is used to doing in New York, America, and will not let the views of other people interfere with that. In America, where she had been raised, Daisy’s behavior was tolerable, but in Europe unacceptable. Daisy figured that she was simply misunderstood by society, and that they would eventually come to realize that she was not wrong in her doings, but instead “innocence was brought to ruin.” Daisy was a victim of society, torn apart by two different cultures, the American and the European.
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