The Allure of Daisy Miller

When Winterbourne first meets Daisy Miller, he is immediately awestruck by her beauty and passive yet “flirtatious” nature. Speaking generally, what stood out to me is how quickly Winterbourne was willing to drop everything and tell his aunt how he wanted to run away with Daisy—all of which he seemed to want based on seeing her. On an analytical level, this suggests his physical infatuation with her is what is driving the relationship. This is shown throughout the novel, beginning with some of their first interactions. Upon meeting Daisy, Winterbourne is constantly mentioning how she is an American woman, and how physically attractive he believes American women to be. how he has never been with an American woman before. Winterbourne remarks “Never indeed, since he had grown old enough to appreciate things, had he encountered a young American girl of so pronounced a type as this. Certainly she was very charming; but deucedly sociable! Was she simply a pretty girl […] or was she also a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young person? Winterbourne had lost his instinct in this matter, and his reason could not help him. […] But this young girl was not a coquette in that sense; she was very unsophisticated; she was only a pretty American flirt.” (12) In this passage, he seems to be acknowledging that yes, she’s American, and yes, she’s pretty—however, besides those two things, she doesn’t have very many redeeming qualities. He calls her “unsophisticated” and notes how she only seems to have her flirtatious nature going for her. Instead of seeking out qualities that one would typically look for in a mate, Winterbourne doesn’t seem to care that in his eyes, all Daisy has going for her is her physicality.

Daisy’s allure as a beautiful, American woman is what seems to get her further in her relationship with Winterbourne, which is noticeable when they are on the boat to Chillon. It is said that “She was apparently not at all excited; she was not fluttered; she avoided neither his eyes nor those of any one else. […] People continued to look at her a great deal, and Winterbourne took much satisfaction in his pretty companion’s distinguished air. […] He quite forgot his fears, he sat smiling, with his eyes upon her face.” (28) This passage shows how Winterbourne is wanting to be with Daisy because of the image she gives off to others—he relishes in the appeal of his female companion, taking pride in how others are looking at her and must be jealous of how he has such a beautiful woman. Daisy’s lack of an emotional connection with Winterbourne is forgotten whenever he looks at her, because it is her face that shapes their relationship, or rather, lack thereof.

Some of the language that is used to describe Daisy not only in these two passages, but throughout the entire book is “flirtatious” or “coquette.” I find this language to be ironic, considering her way of flirting usually takes the form of avoiding Winterbourne and ignoring what he has to say. These words to describe her are perhaps an illusion of Winterbourne’s and correspond to the image that he has created in his head of her based strictly based on assumption and observation. He seems to be in lust with an idealized version of Daisy, rather than the “real” Daisy who lacks substance.

The Setting of Tellson’s Bank

“Thus it had come to pass, that Tellson’s was the triumphant perfection of inconvenience. After bursting open a door of idiotic obstinacy (stubbornness) with a weak rattle in its throat, you fell into Tellson’s down two steps, and came to your senses in a miserable little shop […]” (51)

In this passage, although it has been mentioned before, the reader is being formally introduced to Tellson’s, a bank that becomes a central setting in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. What immediately stuck out to me in this description of Tellson’s is that Dickens describes it as “the triumphant perfection of inconvenience.” Not only is the statement an oxymoron, but it also ties into the background of one of the main characters, Lucie. As an orphan who was told that her parents were dead, Lucie ended up being taken from France to England, where she was raised at Tellson’s Bank. What makes this significant is that in the novel, Lucie is often referred to as a being with what was culturally known as “perfection” at the time (and for the most part, still is when it comes to standards of beauty for women)—young, fair, radiant, well-mannered. In a novel about a dark time in history, although she is not meant to be in England, Lucie, a Frenchwoman, represents the hidden beauty in a time of strife being the “triumphant perfection of inconvenience” by being accidentally sent as something that the gloomy setting of Tellson’s needs.

From a historical standpoint, the bank could be described as such a miserable place because it is a bank, which at the time of the French Revolution, was not a particularly thriving location, as most of France was suffering from extreme hunger and property. The vivid description of the atmosphere, namely how upon entrance, one is likely to fall down the stairs and how it is a “miserable little shop” relates to the other characters that are associated with it. Because of the economic disparity at the time, it is described as a place where documents and money go to die. However, money is not the only thing that is going to die at Tellson’s. Namely, Mr. Cruncher, who resides outside of Tellson’s and is a body-snatcher contributes to the death and inhumanity of the bank; as his “profession” of digging up dead bodies quickly becomes one of his more identifiable character traits, This adds to the characterization of the setting of Tellson’s as a location where things go to die—whether it be documents or people, or in Cruncher’s case, people who are already dead.  My big point is that in a book about the French Revolution, it makes sense that one of the central settings has a connection to death and being miserable, however, if one looks far enough, one is able to find beauty within it.