An analytical essay on Henry James' "Daisy Miller." This essay debates Daisy's innocence.

Essay by mda140College, Undergraduate July 2004

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A Cultural Conflict

Daisy Miller, a young American woman traveling abroad, falls into problems with European society and its social standards. An independent young woman, Daisy does not want to simply succumb to these constraining ideas, as many other Americans living abroad such as Winterbourne are inclined. Representing a freer and more natural method of social interaction, she struggles in a rigid, conservative society. Henry James exposes Winterbourne's problems in understanding Daisy's eccentric behavior throughout his novella Daisy Miller: A Study. Winterbourne's inability to find a category suitable for Daisy's flirting is the central problem of the text. Most of the book's action focuses on Daisy's social miscues and the discussion of those miscues.

The character of Daisy Miller is one of an innocent and naïve flirt, not that of a reckless individual. Daisy is portrayed as the quintessence of purity. Additionally, when her character is contrasted with the opportunistic and self-serving Winterbourne, her innocence and purity are further illuminated.

Daisy is simply acting in the manner most natural to American society. The relationship between Daisy and Winterbourne is a microcosm of the conflict of natural behavior, whether or not one should be forced to accept another country's customs, that exists between Americans and Europeans. The misinterpretation of Daisy's free nature, expressed through her harmless flirting, highlights tensions between American and European characteristics and their ways of life. Therefore, Daisy Miller becomes a study of cultural conflict.

Daisy Miller is the embodiment of innocence in the novella, emphasized by her characterization as pure and natural. The names of the main characters, especially Daisy, give the first insight into their personalities. Her name symbolically represents the flower it mirrors, the daisy. The daisy is a typically commonplace flower known for its simple beauty and lack of pretense. The fact that daisies...