As it is shown in the title of the novella written by Henry James, Daisy Miller: A Study, Wintergreen (the main male protagonist) is instantly analyzing Daisy Miller and trying to classify her, as it is shown in some Wintergreen’s inner reflexives, as the following: Never, indeed, since he has grown Old enough to appreciate things, had he encountered a young American girl of so pronounced a type as this. (James, 2007:12) Daisy Miller is categorized as a “mere object” of the male gaze, not a human being.
By denying Daisy an internal voice, she is being silenced from her thoughts during all the novella as a metaphor of women’s position in public sphere. Moreover, the reader can only perceive Daisy through Wintergreen’s eyes, which means that her image is already filtered through Wintergreen’s conventions when she is introduced to the reader. Social behavior and manners have changed through history, but they have maintained their strong influence and oppression upon the population.
Gender roles in the Victorian society were set in binary systems, closely bound up with class society: as men occupied the role of the subject, women were set in a subordinate position (the object) with a reproductive function. Upper classes women performed three main functions: mother, wife and entertainer. These roles were built and actively obeyed by men and some women (such as Mrs.. Costello and Mrs.. Walker in the novella) and passively followed by most women.
The code contained a double standard of sexual morality, while young unmarried women had to remain virgins, especially in the upper echelons of the European society, men had the role of sexual predators; as Wintergreen indirectly shows considerable erotic interest in Daisy Miller, by being depicted with symbols associated to virility, masculinity and sexually experimented: “My dear aunt, am not so innocent,” said Wintergreen, smiling and curling is In nineteenth-century European society, upper-class unmarried women must be chaperoned in order to protect their reputation.
But as it is reflected in the novella, the main female protagonist defers to those. She is constantly walking in public with men and no chaperone. Daisy does not follow all the qualities of this subordination; such as passivity and complacency, which provokes Wintergreen’s bewilderment, as it is presented in these extracts: Wintergreen reflected for an instant as lucidly as possible- “we” could only mean Miss Daisy Miller and himself. This programmer seemed almost too agreeable for credence; he felt as if he ought to kiss the young lady’s hand. Wintergreen colored; for an instant he hesitated greatly. It seemed so strange to hear her speak that way of her “reputation. ” Daisy Miller does not conform with the authoritarian patriarchal social structure, which traditionally has been endured. Daisy adopts the style of the new independent American womanhood, displayed through her flirtatious behavior and speech, as it is depicted in the following extract: used to go to New York every winter. In New York had lots of society.
Last winter I had seventeen dinners given me; and three of them were by entitlement,” added Daisy Miller. “l have more friends in New York than in Schenectady- more gentlemen friends; and more young lady friends too,” “l have always had,” she said, “a great deal she resumed non moment. Of gentleman’s society. ” (James,2007:1 1) In refusing Mrs. Walker’s invitation to get into her carriage, Daisy also challenges the constructed rules of propriety of the Expatriates which must to be fulfilled by all the “nice” girls.
She also gets exposed to obtain the severe penalties for transgressing gender norms. This action reinforces her own independence, thereby sacrificing her security and comfort. Daisy Miller categorizes herself as “improper” in the following piece of text: “I never heard anything so stiff! If this is improper, Mrs.. Walkers,” she pursued, “then I am all improper, and you must give me up.
Good-bye; I hope you’ll have a lovely James,2007:44) On the other hand, Wintergreen unsuccessfully compels Daisy Miller to follow the rules dictated by gender roles and the rules of propriety imposed by the group of Europeanized Americans: The young girl looked at him more gravely, but with eyes that were prettier than ever. “l have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything do. “l think you have made a mistake,” said Wintergreen. “You should sometimes listen to a gentleman- the right one. ” Furthermore, Wintergreen’s only desire is to admire woman’s beauty.
In this novella, women are depicted as delicate pieces which need to be admired and protected. As in the discussion about the Roman fever between Wintergreen and Giovanni after his visit to the Coliseum accompanied with Daisy at night. “Ah,” said the handsome native, “for myself, am not afraid. ” “Neither am I – for you! Am speaking for this young Henry James provides just a superficial description of Daisy Miller. Moreover, when Daisy is described, she is commonly accompanied with an adjective, such as “nice” or “pretty”.
Whilst men occupying the subject position, Wintergreen spreads virility and vigorousness, especially in Daisy’s company. “How pretty they are! ” thought Wintergreen, straightening himself in his seat, as if he were prepared to rise. ” From the perspective of gender, Henry James could use Daisy’s death to warn women against transgressing the current gender rules and the rebellion against them. As a conclusion, Daisy Miller makes the reader be aware of the fact that the appropriate gender standards of manners and behavior patterns are culturally dependent.
What is considered acceptable in the American upper- class society is unbearable at Rome; provoking Daisy Miller not to fit in any of the pre-structured women categories Mr.. Wintergreen has in mind. None of the characters in this novella takes cognizance of Daisy’s different upbringing. The novella can be interpreted as the imperative need of tolerance and acceptance for human differences in the diverse cultures of mankind. James, Henry. Daisy Miller. London: Penguin Classics, 2007.