Discussion for James’s “Daisy Miller: A Study”
Literary critic J.A. Ward summarized nicely one of the great themes that interests Henry James’s fiction involving Americans who travel to Europe.
“The American has an instinctive moral sense; yet he is offered no means for experience, no possibility of development. When he [the American character] journeys to Europe, the American is exposed to a rich complexity of art, history, and manners, but also to an evil inseparable from the age and beauty which he has sought.”
Ward also highlights how James locates evil within the simplistic values of his American characters: “The inoffensive vulgarians in James, those with a kind of moral sense, are agents of a mild evil. They oppress themselves. For good is necessarily imperfect in James unless it masters experience; and the vulgar by definition are incapable of [learning from] experience.”
Another critic, Robert Weisbuch, also points to the theme of evil in James’s international fiction, especially in “Daisy Miller:”
“When we go looking for evil in ‘Daisy Miller,’ what we first find is a simple, then awful, joke: that while the [American] expatriate idler Winterbourne worries over the morality of the young American woman, it is his own behavior that constitutes immorality. He [commits] an unpardonable sin in his overly intellectualized searching out of the moral fault of another.”
So, critics agree that “Daisy Miller” is about evil, under the guise of both simplistic innocence and urbane sophistication.
1. Traveler Daisy is the perfect picture of American innocence and naiveté. How does her innocence leads her into vulgarity? How does she “oppress” herself? Find 2 passages to support your answer.
(Hint: Does Daisy follow the social etiquette rules of Italy? Does she take advice from those who are more experienced than her?)
2. The narrator Winterbourne is the perfect picture of an American who has adopted European sophistication and morality. From throughout the story, describe how Winterbourne is still guilty of intellectualized sin in his perceptions of Daisy. Find 2 passages that support your interpretation.
(Hint: Winterbourne regards Daisy in a snobbish way, even though he is secretly attracted to her. He prefers to find fault in Daisy than to focus on her positive traits.)
ANSWER SHOULD BE IN the Sandwich method and add the page numbers for the passages. You should use this method of writing the short essays for my discussion questions .pls add the page numbers for the quotes.
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