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Discuss the native American resistance to the European Americans in Daisy Miller.

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fadhil80 | Student, Graduate | Honors

Posted April 2, 2013 at 9:13 PM via iOS

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Discuss the native American resistance to the European Americans in Daisy Miller.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 12, 2013 at 5:33 AM (Answer #1)

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The conflict in this excellent and popular novells is one that James develops elsewhere in his various novels: the clash of culture between Americans who have been established in Europe for so long that they have exchanged their own culture for a European one, and Americans who are in Europe as tourists and thus demonstrate a different set of cultural values and behaviour. To summarise the main differences that are exhibited by these two different groups, they are: ritual vs. spontaneity, honesty vs. double standards and innocence vs. experience. Of course, in this novella it is the arrival of Daisy Miller as an American tourist that brings this conflict between the two groups to the fore. Daisy Miller is a woman who Frederick Winterbourne, a Europeanised American, finds attractive precisely because of her innocence, her lack of artificiality and her directness. However, as the novella progresses, it is clear that Daisy Miller's unconventional behaviour by European standards has made her something of a topic of disapproval. Note for example how she insists on living by her own standards, even when such behaviour will result in her becoming something of a social pariah. One such issue is when she insists upon walking, even though the custom is for ladies to ride in a carriage:

"It may be enchanting, dear child, but it is not the custom here," urged Mrs. Walker, leaning forward in her victoria, with her hands devoutly clasped.

"Well, it ought to be, then!" said Daisy. "If I didn't walk I should expire."

To Mrs. Walker, Daisy's insistence on walking shows she is determined to show off her figure and her form to men around her. To Daisy, walking is something that she prefers to do without attaching any other meaning to it. Similar conflicts are shown when Daisy is happy with flirting with men, as American young women were used to doing, and even says it is more proper for unmarried women to flirt than for married women. The way in which Daisy Miller is treated by the Europeanised Americans demonstrates the cultural resistance that this group put forward to any dissenters, and Daisy's fate exhibits the success of such resistance, indicating the difficulties of challenging any such cultural strictness. 

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