Daisy Miller and her symbolism

Daisy Miller is written from the perspective of a young man named Winterborne and his experiences with a young girl named Daisy Miller while on a European excursion. Winterborne spends most of his depictions of Daisy discussing with himself and the reader the morality and social expectations or assumptions made about Daisy’s actions. Throughout the sort novel it is left up to the reader to debate whether or not Daisy herself was acting without regard for manners or social expectations intentionally or not. Regardless of whether or not she was acting intentionally or not the actions of Daisy Miller did make enough of an impact on Winterborne and the narrator that the novel is named after her. Within Victorian society, much like our own, there is an expected code of conduct that women and men are expected to live by in polite society. Women then were not to go out alone at night or be alone with a man they were not married to or related to while today it is socially acceptable for a woman to be alone with a man they are not married or related to. Daisy, throughout the novel, regularly makes choices and decisions that are directly against what is expected of a woman like herself, choosing to pursue her own whims and desires first as seen in her insistence on seeing the colosseum and the castle on the island at the beginning of the novel. Regardless of whether or not Daisy acted this way intentionally or not, Daisy’s actions and attitude had a lasting impression on the other people in her life. In having a character within the story that contradicts and ignores what is socially accepted of her while still maintaining her good name and money, shows to the readers that it is possible to maintain ones good name and still pursue sexual and social freedom. In representing the untamable woman within the novel, Daisy shows that women do not have to follow everything that is expected of them. Not only does Daisy show this, but her mother does as well. Mrs. Miller also shows and encourages women to pursue their interests and that they don’t have to do soley what they’re told in not trying to control or stop Daisy. By allowing Daisy to do what she wants without reprimand, Mrs. Miller condones Daisy’s actions and pursuits. Winterborne also plays a role in this but not in the same way that Mrs. Miller does. In not being able to convince Daisy to do what is expected of her and simply being the person who watches Daisy rather than someone who controls or marries her, Winterborne acts as a device that proves how little control men need to have over a woman’s life.  

One thought on “Daisy Miller and her symbolism”

  1. I believe that Daisy Miller is one of the most riveting novels we’ve read this semester because of its depiction of the rift between American society and British/European society during the late 19th century. Although most of the other novels we have read exhibit the gap between Victorian societal customs/expectations and reality in Britain, it seems as though Daisy Miller exemplifies the fact that American women have strayed even further from societal norms than British women have during this period. Winterbourne even mentions something about the coquette nature of married British women being less threatening than the flirtatious liberated persona of the American woman (I forgot this page). Interesting stuff to think about.

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