Analysis Of The Misunderstandings Surrounding The Main Heroine From Henry James’ Novel Daisy Miller
In Henry James’ Daisy Miller, the remark made by the novel regarding Winterbourne’s initial observation of daisy is that Winterbourne could not clearly read Daisy’s face. According to the novel, Winterbourne made a number of observations regarding Daisy immediately after encountering her, one of which was “and as regards this young lady’s face he made several observations. It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expressive” (James 12).
Therefore, In Henry James’ Daisy Miller, the initial inexpressive face of Daisy is significant because it foretells that Daisy was a woman that was difficult to understand and would eventually be misinterpreted and misjudged.
The fact that Daisy Miller would emerge as a largely misunderstood character in Henry James’ Daisy Miller was already foretold by the initial assessment and observation of her face, which was found to be inexpressive. Daisy’s initial character and appearance made Winterbourne misinterpret and misjudge her. Initially, when Winterbourne met Daisy, he formed the impression that Daisy was a less talkative and antisocial woman (D’Amore 27).
Winterbourne had tried to make conversation with her but she always seemed disinterested and did not pay particular attention either to him or to what he was saying. Thus, Winterbourne concluded that Daisy was antisocial. However, “before long it became obvious that she was much disposed toward conversation” (James 12).
In fact, as it turned out, Daisy was actually a highly talkative character than expected since “she talked to Winterbourne as if she had known him a long time. He found it very pleasant. It was many years since he had heard a young girl talk so much” (James 15). Thus, the initial impression that Winterbourne had formed of Daisy as a less talkative and antisocial woman turned out to be inaccurate, underscoring the fact that Daisy’s initial inexpressive face foreshadowed that she would eventually be misinterpreted and misjudged.
Further, the aspect of Daisy being misunderstood spans the entire novel, beginning with Winterbourne’s aunt, Mrs. Costello, who perceived Daisy as shameless, and extending to Winterbourne’s friends and other American’s in Italy, who also misunderstand Daisy as a loose woman. Mrs. Costello described Daisy as a dreadful girl based on the fact that she had met Winterbourne for only half-hour and had accepted to go Chateau de Chillon and then concluded ‘of course she’s pretty. But she is very common’ (James 24).
The same thought of judging Daisy as a loose woman had crossed Winterbourne’s mind after he learnt that Daisy had a lot of male friends that she referred to as her gentlemen’s society. Miss Daisy appeared confusing because she was flirtatious, yet she appeared to be too innocent. The double-edge character of Miss Daisy was a thorn in Winterbourne’s and he was constantly left wondering “and yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of actual or potential inconduite, as they said at Geneva?” (James 17).
Daisy sustained this character throughout the entire time she was interacting with Winterbourne, making him wonder whether she was really a woman of loose morals or she was as innocent as seemed. In fact, the more Winterbourne interacted with Miss Daisy, the more he got confused by her character. Thus, the initial inexpressiveness of Daisy’s face observed by Winterbourne in their initial encounter was meant to foretell that Daisy was meant to remain a confusing, misunderstood, and misinterpreted character.
The hallmark of misjudging and misinterpreting Miss Daisy came when she finally went to Italy. While in Italy, fellow Americans judged Miss Daisy as a woman of loose morals simply because she was usually seen associating and in the company of male friends than she did with her female peers. Thus, when Winterbourne was finally able to come meet Daisy in Italy, he found rumors of her loose morals and got hint of scandals that brewing around Miss Daisy’s character (Childress 24). At this point, Winterbourne because disturbed by the fact that Daisy was associating with Mr. Giovanelli, an Italian male he considered to be of a questionable character, often wondering whether Miss Daisy was unable to tell that Mr. Giovanelli was not a good person.
Thus, Winterbourne perceived Giovanelli with indignation as a man of poor character and “said to himself, ‘a nice girl ought to know!’ And then he came back to the question whether this was, in fact, a nice girl” (James 54). The emphasis put to the effect that he came back to the same question of whether Miss Daisy was a nice girl underscores the fact that Daisy was set to be misunderstood from the very beginning. Indeed, Daisy was misjudged as a woman of loose morals until the very end when she died, and was realized to have been innocent.
In conclusion, in Henry James’ Daisy Miller, Daisy’s initial inexpressive face foreshadowed that she would eventually be misinterpreted and misjudged. Daisy was misjudged both by those who interacted with her and those who heard about her. The fact that Daisy stood to be misunderstood was however to be expected following Winterbourne’s initial observation of Daisy, which found that she had inexpressive face. Thus, based on this initial assessment, Daisy’s fate of being misjudged was inescapable.
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