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Can we closely analyze the following excerpt from Henry James’s Daisy Miller?“She...

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prettyellise | (Level 2) Honors

Posted October 1, 2011 at 6:45 AM via web

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Can we closely analyze the following excerpt from Henry James’s Daisy Miller?

“She sent me a message before her death which I didn’t understand at the time.  But I have understood it since.  She would have appreciated one’s esteem.”

“Is that a modest way,” asked Mrs. Costello, “of saying that she would have reciprocated one’s affection?”

Winterbourne offered no answer to this question; but he presently said, “You were right in that remark that you made last summer.  I was booked to make a mistake.  I have lived too long in foreign parts.”

Nevertheless, he went back to live at Geneva, whence there continue to come the most contradictory accounts of his motives of sojourn: a report that he is “studying” hard—an  intimation that he is much interested in a very clever foreign lady.


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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 2, 2011 at 3:04 AM (Answer #1)

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To better understand this part of the story, we must go back and find all the instances that describe Winterbourne's reactions toward Daisy.

We can find two particular times when his attitude towards her is described

It was as if a sudden illumination had been flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy's behaviour and the riddle had become easy to read. She was a young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect.

Moreover, we find out that Winterbourne elects to merely classify Daisy under some proper category to excuse his inability to accept her unique qualities. 

She was very unsophisticated; she was only a pretty American flirt. Winterbourne was almost grateful for having found a formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller.

This being said, we see how Winterbourne's cold nature is reflected properly in the name of his character, and in his interactions with Daisy. As a man who cannot understand how a woman could be naturally open-minded and outspoken, he basically drowns his emotions toward Daisy in favor of a more traditional view of women.

Clearly, Daisy does not help matters with her insecure and immature behavior. We can only excuse it because, as readers, we know that all she wants is to get the cold and calculating Winterbourne to "throw her a bone" and show some interest in her. 

However, after Daisy dies, we witness that Daisy had made a final attempt to redeem himself to him. When Winterbourne reads the letter, he understands that he should have given himself an opportunity to understand Daisy better. She was not a bad person, but an inexperienced coquette. Yet, he cannot help his nature, and continued with life as usual in Geneva.

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