How a young girls innocence stimulates her actions in a foreign land.
In his novella, Henry James paints an elaborate portrait of Miss Daisy Miller, a young and perpetually naïve American girl touring Europe with her family. He decidedly chooses to describe his work by saying “The whole idea of the story is the little tragedy of a light, thin, natural, unsuspecting creature, being sacrificed, as it were, to a social rumpus that went on quite over her head and to which she took in no measurable relation” (James, 71).
The actions of Daisy Miller were driven by the fact that she was in a new environment – she was an ocean away from home, and there was a good chance that the people in which she encountered would never hear from her again. She had heard so many wonderful things about Europe from her friends, and now that she was finally there, she was keen on enjoying every moment there was to spare (71). The knowledge that she would only be traveling for a sanctioned amount of time allowed Daisy to live purely out of her own free will. She became blind to the cultural adequacies that surrounded her and instead felt it perfectly acceptable that she allow her American tendencies to shine, most notably, her habit of being an unlawful flirt.
As a flower attracts bees, Daisy Miller had the ability to effortlessly lure in men. We first see her catch the eye, thought, and heart of Mr. Winterbourne, and later, holds company with the “beautiful Italian,” Mr. Giovanelli. Because she was so used to being in good company back home, Daisy felt that being on the arm of a different man at any given moment of the day was nothing to speak about. Naturally though, people can always find things to criticize. In chapter four, James brings up the topic of the Golden Age, a time when society was more virtuous and idealistic. In the novella, Daisy seems to be living on a constant high, while being caught between America’s advanced lifestyle and Europe’s old-world constraints. Society now shuns the idea of living frivolously, instead trading the value of innocent fun for gossip and a phony sense of normality. Although Mr. Giovanelli, the subject of one of Daisy’s affairs, seems to be a gentleman to a naïve young woman, he is in fact the product of an urbane society, a “third-rate artist” (40).
When Winterbourne notifies Daisy that her actions are being frowned upon, “she was wounded; she became conscious that she was accused of something of which her very comprehension was vague” (71). As she was seemingly living by her own rules, she attempted to avert the stares of onlookers, although knowing that Winterbourne thought wrongly of her appeared to leave the biggest impression.
Daisy’s relationship with Winterbourne was inadvertently one of the most important in the story, though it never seemed to flourish in the way either of the characters would have liked. While Daisy was a doer, Winterbourne was a thinker. He spent more time analyzing Daisy’s character than actually getting to know her. Because of this, Daisy never believed that Winterbourne was truly interested in her. It appears to me though, that Winterbourne unconsciously stimulated many of Daisy’s actions. Although Daisy and Winterbourne had not been acquainted for too long, she was clearly upset when she found out he was leaving, and although he followed through with word on traveling to Rome to see her, she was upset that he had not come sooner. At the time, Daisy was involved with Mr. Giovanelli, and it can appear that she just wanted the attention from Winterbourne; I believe that she still cared about him. For a young girl, as cliché as it may seem, traveling to a new place and falling in love is an ultimate pleasure. There is a thrill of not knowing where the relationship will go within the amount of time it has to flourish, and because of Daisy’s innocence and free will their relationship remained only an inner idea in both individual’s minds. This became evident after Daisy’s untimely death when Giovanelli reveals to Winterbourne that he knew Daisy would never had been his wife, for she was too innocent, and it seemed as though her heart lied elsewhere (63).
Daisy’s lived by her own whim from her first introduction to the time of her death. She chooses to interact with Winterbourne upon their first meeting, just as she chooses to go to the Coliseum at night with Giovanelli. Though Daisy’s naiveties drove her to her demise, they allowed a young girl in a far away land to take an exhilarating journey along the way.