Essay Samples

Daisy Miller

Table of contents

    The socialites in Daisy Miller's world seek to perfection, nobility, and an excellent of character. But character is a deceptive word; interiority is significant only insofar as it reflects the assumed depths that come with a look of modification, for the relationships in Daisy Miller: A Study is formed by surveillance, not by discussion. Winterbourne's penetrating gaze dissects and complicates Daisy's appearance and, consequently, personality, beyond what her own outcrop of a personality merits. The storyteller of Henry James's story supplementary this atmosphere, sprinkle visual and even abstract sentences with modifiers and other syntactical caresses to force a system of visual modification on the reader.

    The reader, however, must engage his mind's eye to form a picture of Daisy, her most obvious excellence, while he is kept privy to her relatively blank awareness, thus ensuring an emotional aloofness from her which allows him to see her as she really is. The heroine enthralls Winterbourne, on the other hand, for most of the story, because he can only surmise as to the mystery, or riddle, as the raconteur calls it, of the vagueness of Daisy's behavior beneath her deceptive exterior.

    His credit of his dependence on the gaze, and on Daisy's vacuity or else, triggers his final revulsion and enables him to select an answer from the opening passage of this essay‹or at least be familiar with the hollowness of the debate, that either option is a product of a insignificant character whose observant awareness only functions when it loops back on itself, as all of Daisy's limited comments, too, imply: an attempt at demonstrating modification that fails to advance linearly, but in its place circles its solipsistic subject.

    From the start, Winterbourne is shown as a participatory voyeur. His greatest talent is in specifying female beauty into discrete parts, refining his vision of the entire into smaller, more substantial pieces:

    They were magnificently pretty eyes; and, indeed, Winterbourne had not seen for a long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman's a variety of features her complexion, her nose, her ears, her teeth. He had a great enjoy for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and analyzing it; and as regards this young lady's face he made more than a few observations. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    Besides the visual blazon he writes on Daisy as a traditional weapon of subjugation and which permits him, for a moment, to mentally accuse her face of a want of finish, Winterbourne tries amazing equally dominating to usurp Daisy's own power of sight by moderator her eyes only on visual terms. In their meeting, Daisy is at first ostensibly pinned by Winterbourne's evaluative gaze of superlatives and particularization, but her eyes tell another story:

    She sat there with her very pretty hands, ornamented with very luminous rings, folded in her lap, and with her pretty eyes now latent upon those of Winterbourne, now itinerant over the garden, the people who passed by, and the beautiful view. Daisy's agency and impulsiveness, the qualities that draw Winterbourne after her, are on display here, so highly, in fact, that Winterbourne's own formerly powerful eyes get lost in the uneven catalog of her line-of-sight. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    James makes it easy to trace the origins of Daisy's mode of surveillance. The account of her mother contains several hints as to where Daisy chosen up her evasive eyeballing: Her mother was a small, spare, light person, with an itinerant eye, a very exiguous nose, and a large forehead, bedecked with a certain amount of thin, much-frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs. Miller was dressed with great elegance; she had huge diamonds in her ears. So far as Winterbourne could watch, she gave him no greeting she surely was not looking at him.

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    Winterbourne's reduced powers of surveillance highlights another feature of Mrs. Miller's which Daisy shares her look of mystery through opposition. The smallness of her body contrasts with her wandering eye, just as her exiguous nose plays against her large brow, or even that her hair is both thin and much-frizzled.

    Mrs. Costello was a widow who often intimated that, if she were not so terribly liable to sick-headaches, she would probably have left a deeper impress upon her time. She had a long pale face, a high nose, and a great deal of arresting white hair, which she wore in large puffs and rouleaux over the top of her head. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    Daisy has the best of both worlds, excellent beauty with contradictory ambiguity, but her lack of the dignity Mrs. Costello has in spades is why, in the elder's eyes, she’s pretty. But she is very common. Even the word attractive, used extensively for Daisy, connotes a lesser, more willingly available form of beauty and hints at the simple awareness Winterbourne will later uncover.

    The modifiers chiefly, indeed and extremely even the reminder to tourists and the ensuing recommendation all add up to produce a world whose inborn elegance must be tapped by the refining eye of the observer. The same self-importance applies to the metaphors of Daisy already cited. But since prose descriptions do not grip him as much as the visual does an actual observer, the reader is conscious of the showiness of these judgments long before Winterbourne understands them. Halfway from side to side the story, angry with Daisy's ungratefulness for his visit,

    Winterbourne recalls the chestnut that pretty American women are at once the most demanding in the world and the least endowed with a sense of thanks. Demanding in more way than one, since Daisy is demanding of others and of the precise sort of attention paid to her. Her insistence that Winterbourne go round with her is one of the many uses of the phrase, a visual portrayal of the social revolution a meaning quite contrary to that of 1789 France of wheeling about on a selfish axis and ignoring the modification of linear, thinker thought that Winterbourne demonstrates. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    The minute variations of the beat of each section between four and five beats, with two exceptions intensify her incapability to deepen her thought beyond the unique statement. She runs into an by accident humorous ambiguity I guess she sleeps more than she thinks she does I guess she spends more time sleeping than thinking, and the recurrence of "she" stalls the subject pronominally where it could be used to expand account of her mother. Her inability to make headway is most obvious in her cumbersome use of to four times after the semicolon the activity is continually being put into effect through the infinitive, rather than coming to fruition and, though it ends as a prepositional expression, continues the infinitive theme. Finally, she concludes with a statement nearly the same to the opener, framing her outline with empty declarations.

    Caught in the world of the visual, Winterbourne is unable to detect these limits. He cannot pierce the showiness of Daisy's character, and when he does find amazing he dislikes, as when he spies on her and Giovanelli, he is still too enamored of Daisy to tackle her, either physically or in his own judgment. James delicately toys with the dissimilarity between Winterbourne's judgment of the visible and the interior with a few cleverly-placed semicolons:

    Winterbourne stood there; he had turned his eyes towards Daisy and her offhand. They obviously saw no one; they were too deeply occupied with each other. When they reached the low garden-wall they stood for a moment looking off at the great flat-topped pine-clusters of the Villa Borghese; then Giovanelli seated himself intimately upon the broad ledge of the wall. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    Clearly, we are meant to read the topic they as Daisy and Giovanelli. But James withholds any proper names awaiting Giovanelli seats himself on the wall, and this comes in a divide clause. It is likely for them to mean Winterbourne's eyes. In this reading, his eyes obviously do not see Daisy, because they are too deeply busy with each other in other words, his eyes are enraptured with their own convergence of the gaze to see through Daisy's demeanor. When they reached, then, continues to describe their nomadic path over the scenery; that they stood for a instant clarifies that the pair is really human, but the damage is done: She came a little nearer and he held the parasol over her; then, still holding it, he let it rest upon her shoulder, so that both of their heads were hidden from Winterbourne. He is blinded, while the person who reads retains vision and most probable, at this point, couldn't care less what Daisy and Giovanelli are doing under the sunshade.

    Winterbourne, stuck in a visual system of ruling I have noticed that they are very close, Winterbourne observed, only smashes free from it and sees the truth when his vision is impaired: He stood there looking at her‹looking at her friend, and not shiny that though he saw them vaguely, he himself must have been more brilliantly able to be seen. He felt angry with himself that he had worried so much about the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller. (Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.)

    The language of observational terms which can double as evaluative verbs reflecting, concerning strikes the philosophical change in Winterbourne's literal outlook, as does his using her full official name as a way of sapping her of any suggestive secrecy behind the vague she. He later repents somewhat after Daisy's death, but seems not to take the lesson to heart. The real study of Daisy Miller: A Study, then, is Winterbourne, whose undecided attempts to study Daisy we go after until his brief redemption, and of whom the final line of the description reinforcing his return to the gaze, albeit now directed at an ostensibly more worthy, but still very refined foreigner should come as no shock: he is studying hard' an hint that he is much paying attention in a very clever foreign lady.


    Henry James, Daniel Mark Fogel, Daisy Miller: A Dark Comedy of Manners, Macmillan Library Reference, 1990.

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