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20091105-930 Daisy Miller (Group 5)

Page history last edited by Paige Wartko 11 years ago




Daisy Miller 





      Daisy Miller is an example of the 19th century realism movement in literature. This movement started with photography and the idea of capturing things objectively. Daisy Miller could be seen as a tragedy in the classical sense that it starts good and ends badly, as evidenced by Daisy's death at the end of the work. Yet we discussed the idea that maybe Daisy deserved to die, which would make the work non-tragic. 

                Daisy is displayed as a "representative character" of innocent, young American girls, who do not know how to act in the high society of Europe.  Daisy she does not come off as abnormal or unsophisticated in a modern perspective. However, she is condemned within the society she faces abroad by characters such as Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Costello.  Although she is aware of the social norms, she finds them too restrictive and does not care for them. In the late 1800's, Daisy’s innocent flirting would have been accepted in New York, but seen as inappropriate behavior for a young woman in Europe.

            The question, often raised by Winterbourne, of Daisy’s character, is the pivotal query of the work. Many of her choices put her in danger, and it's difficult for the reader to sympathize with her as sometimes she is portrayed as reckless.  Daisy's actions, in Europe, suggest that she is a “fish out of water”, an attention monger, or even an idiot. But perhaps she is just a perfect picture of American audacity and innocence, coupled with independence and rejection of double standards and the repression of women. The peculiarities may be symptoms of a cultural divide or a social class disparity of new money vs. old money.  We decided that her placement in a foreign setting left us unable to properly judge Daisy’s character and actions.

Word Count (300)






Realism: an attempt to represent things as they really are. (objectivism). And includes:

 Impartial narrators

Focus on physical surfaces

Larger societal focus

Representative character (ex. An character who behaves a certain way that is representative of a type of person, and is not idiosyncratic.)



Romanticism: Very individual, focused on a subjective point of view.



Idiosyncratic: Like Li Po, acts individually without a certain formula or structure.






Bottom of page 52:


"'I know why you say that,' said Daisy, watching Giovanelli. 'Because you think I go round too much with him.' And she nodded at her attendant.  'Every one thinks so - if you care to know,' said Winterbourne.  'Of course I care to know!' Daisy exclaimed, seriously. 'But I don't believe it.  They are only pretending to be shocked.  They don't really care a straw what I do.  Besides, I don't go round so much.'


     The consensus is that Daisy may not be sincere here and may just enjoy the attention and the gossip surrounding her.  She is aware that what she is doing is causing scandal, yet she does it anyway.  The passage is important because it could lead the reader to gain insight into her persona and reasoning.




Bottom of page 9:


"Poor Winterbourne was amused, perplexed, and decidedly charmed.  He had never yet heard of a young girl express herself in just this fashion - never, at least, save in cases where to say such things seemed a kind of demonstrative evidence of a certain laxity of deportment.  And yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of actual or potential inconduite, as they said in Geneva?  He felt that he had lived at Geneva so long that he had lost a good deal; he had become dishabituated to the American tone.  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 how deucedly sociable!  Was she simply a pretty girl from New York State?  Were they all like that, the pretty girls who had a good deal of Gentlemen's society?  Or was she also a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young person?"


     Here Winterbourne has started his search to discover the true character of Daisy Miller.  As he views and analyses her, Winterbourne is trying to see if Daisy is acting like a normal American girl or if she is just an oddity.  He even questions if he has been out of American culture for so long that he can't even recognize this “type” anymore.  Winterbourne is trying to generalize Daisy as an American flirt, which portrays realism through a concern with “representative characters,” but his conclusion is short-lived.  


Middle of page 7:


"In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man wasn't at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady save under certain rarely-occurring conditions; but here at Vevey what conditions could be better than these? - a pretty American girl coming to stand in front of you in a garden with all the confidence in life."  


     As we have seen previously in this class, we are being taught the proper manners for the society through a character, here Winterbourne.  He is fully aware of the customs and puts an importance on following them, while Daisy Miller has no regard for them, which plays a large part in her downfall.

Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 5:54 pm on Nov 10, 2009

This is a very good set of notes. You boil down our wide-ranging discussion to three main points and write effectively about them in the summary. You choose passages well, and show us more than just one thing happening in the text through them. And your definitions cover the bases.

If it were possible to create the perfect notes, I would ask you to do the following. First, the formatting of the definition of realism makes your points harder to read than they need be. This could easily have been fixed. Second, your explanation for the first passage could be a bit more expansive. I don't know that it's a complete open and shut case that Daisy is really aware of what she is doing here. You could make it more plain to your reader (i.e., your classmates) that we continue to be unable to know what's happening here. Third, you could point out that the second passage shows us Winterbourne engaged in a process that looks an awful lot like realism: an objective viewpoint engaged in observation of a representative type (you do get this last point). Finally, it would have been great to have a bit about Daisy's possibility as a feminist character. But you had no more characters to use in your summary, and that's going to happen every time.

Still, these are very good notes.

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