Comment on selfishness and loyalty as explored in Chopin's The Awakening and Daisy Miller by Henry James.
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Both of these texts are very similar in that they depict a strong female character who determines to live life as they want to, irrespective of social conventions and the norms and values of the day, and are shunned by everybody else as a result. The selfishness then could be expressed in the act of Edna and Daisy refusing to conform to the dictates of society around them. For Daisy, this is expressed through her rejection of societal norms, as expressed in this following quotation:
"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."
Mrs. Walker kindly advises Daisy not to walk but to drive in the car, as she is concerned about Daisy walking around and being the subject of attention of male viewers. Daisy's rejection of this advice is typical of her selfish attitude throughout the novel: she determines to make her own course, and pays the penalty of being ostracised as a result. In the same way, Edna, through leaving her home, and her duties as a woman and mother of society, determines to live life her own way:
Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to “feed upon opinion” when her own soul had invited her.
This quote expresses her determination to live life the way that she wants to rather than play the role that society has prepared for her, again demonstrating, like Daisy, what could be viewed as selfishness as she doesn't think about her chiildren or husband and only thinks of her own needs and desire to "look with her own eyes."
Both texts demonstrate loyalty through the way that society is unequivocal in its condemnation of both characters. The majority of characters are loyal to society and its dictates, and will not brook any rejection or deliberate flouting of those norms and values, and thus unite in their disapproval of both Edna and Daisy. This, in Edna's case, concludes with her feeling that the only exit she has is in suicide, and with Daisy, the text ends with her tragic death and the nagging guilt experienced by Winterbourne as he feels that Daisy represented something bigger and more important that he remains unaware of. Loyalty, it seems, has its price.
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