Daisy Miller on Daisy Miller

In Henry James’ Daisy Miller, the romantic interest of protagonist Winterbourne, named Miss Daisy Miller, is a young lady with a bold personality. She is described from the perspectives of numerous other characters in the novel to provide the reader a chance to determine their own feelings about her. However, listening to Daisy speak may be the most useful tool to decide how the reader feels about her. To Winterbourne, she is an intriguing, witty, and beautiful woman—but her looks seem to be the driving force of his fascination. According to Winterbourne’s snobby aunt, Mrs. Costello, the Miller family is “hopelessly vulgar” as they are “intimate” with their courier and Daisy is only a “common” pretty. Mrs. Costello is a part of the high social status, so she has an understanding of the kinds of people that are also in her community. When Daisy speaks, it is often formal dialogue, especially with Winterbourne. She believes speaking this way will give the impression that she is a classy woman, not a young lady with a liking to tease others. This also exudes the impression that she is from a higher class than how she actually lives. Daisy is self-absorbed and has “main character syndrome”: meaning that she is the center of her world and other people are to do deeds for her, not the other way around because that would not make sense to her as she is the “main character” of life. She says to Winterbourne, “I like a lady to be exclusive; I’m dying to be exclusive myself. Well, we are exclusive, mother and I. We don’t speak to every one—or they don’t speak to us. I suppose it’s about the same thing” (James 20). Perhaps Daisy teases men so often because a lady is exclusive. She likes interacting with men, but being a lady is important to her. Being a lady also extends to her family—her mother—for that factors into the image of who she associates with and where she comes from. It is certainly not the same thing for a person to not speak to many others versus other people approaching that person. If someone does not seem approachable, others will not want to introduce themselves. If a person wants to interact with another specific person, it is her responsibility to introduce herself and make that interaction happen. On the same note, when Winterbourne discusses taking a trip to Rome, Daisy reaction is, “’I don’t want you to come for your aunt,’ said Daisy; ‘I want you to come for me’” (30). She has known this man for not even a full day and they by no means have a close relationship to each other, yet she wants him to do things for her. It would be very nice if they could reconnect in Rome, but her poutiness to his proposition is very off-putting all because she is not the star of the show, if he does not visit Rome specially for Daisy. When Daisy speaks, it is certainly conveyed to the reader how she views herself and how she wishes for others to view her. 

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