20 February 2014
Question 5: Question 5: Women at the End of the 19th Century
Daisy Miller is the female main character in the short story by Henry James. Mr. Winterbourne describes her as a pretty American flirt, suggesting she is somewhat liberal and improper, as per the young man’s impression. Mr. Winterbourne is also a relatively young American man, about twenty-seven years old. He has spent a lot of time in Europe, becoming accustomed to a different world view from that of the American family and more specifically that of Daisy Miller.
When the story begins, Winterbourne is seated at the garden of a hotel in Vevey when he meets Daisy’s younger brother Randolph, a pleasant little fellow, brave enough to ask a stranger for sugar, and justifying his request by saying that he is an American boy who misses candy from back home. When his sister Daisy appears and is introduced to Winterbourne, he expects her to be as proper and uptight as the women in Geneva. He even fears for his image, as he struggles to decide what would be proper for him to say to her, considering that he found her attractive. However, Winterbourne is put at ease when he finds Daisy more liberated than he had seen in a long time. When James describes her, as “…very charming; but how deucedly sociable” (12), he gives the impression that he had expected her to exercise some form of restraint upon their acquaintance, since they had just met. He did enjoy her company, but he certainly wasn’t entirely comfortable with how easily it was for her to have a conversation with him. Winterbourne did not approve of Daisy’s friendship with the Italian man named Giovanelli. He wanted her to know that he would accompany her and not leave her alone with him. It might of seemed like he was jealous or it might be that in that era it could be taken as he was trying to protect her reputation.
It is clear that women in the 19th century were expected to be more conservative. Society expected modesty and some form of reserve in socialization. It implies that the women were very restricted by society in their level of interaction, especially with the opposite gender.
In the story, “The