Daisy Miller

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A PRESENTATION OF THE VIEW OF WOMEN IN THE VICTORIAN AGE AND HOW THIS IS REFLECTED IN HENRY JAMES` DAISY MILLER - A STUDY (I will refer to the story as Daisy Miller and the protagonist as Daisy.)

America was still a young nation in the Victorian age and Americans hadn’t yet built up their own identity and culture. Many of the new-rich had their origins from Europe and they would to a large degree mimic their mother countries in Europe.

Even if the Americans in the Victorian Age copied ideas from Europe for instance the view of women, the standards in Europe were much more rigid than in America. The protagonist in Daisy Miller challenges the strict decorum of European society

Henry James was one of the main writers in the early literary period of realism. The realists focused on expressing the difficulties that humans experienced as part of the society. People of the contemporary time experienced great social, political and economic changes. Henry James high-lighted the human psychology and he described individuals as drifting by the forces of society. He believed that humanity’s freedom of choice was limited by the powers of society. This viewpoint of humans is clearly expressed in Daisy Miller. Daisy joie de vivre is stagnated by society in Europe. Daisy Miller- A Study is one of James` earliest novels written in 1878. In Daisy Miller, Daisy is branded as abnormal only because she is not conforming to society’s standards.

WOMEN AS OBJECTS

Upper-class women of the era were seen as objects. They were idealized and kept as pretty parrots in cages. They should be beautiful, gentle and admired but passive and silent.

The term “The Angel In The House“ was a popular brand of the ideal woman. She was expected to be like an angel in the house, meaning that she should keep her house a solace place and her family happy. She was worshiped as the guardian of morality and it was her duty to keep her husband on the right track.

When Winterbourne describes Daisy the first time he sees her, he is describing her dress, the features of her clothes and the parasol in her hand. Winterbourne is here revealing how the men viewed the women as beautiful ornaments and their inner self was of no interest. Winterbourne is not concerned with for instance the expression on her face or other personal qualities.

The way Victorian men looked at women as objects is also revealed when Giovanelli is waiting for Daisy in a park in Rome, Daisy being a woman he is obviously attracted to. While waiting for Daisy he is busy observing other beautiful women, he is not even looking to see if Daisy is arriving at their meeting point. When she arrives he doesn’t see her but she has to find him because he is too busy admiring other women. This shows an ignorant and impolite way of treating women. It seems like Giovanelli doesn’t care what Daisy might feel about his behavior. To him she is just another object.

Throughout the story Daisy is treated like an object by the other characters. Winterbourne, Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker are joined in their way of observing Daisy, discussing her behavior behind her back and criticizing everything she does. Most of the other characters in the story represent the strict and malign decorum of the period. No one ever asks for Daisy’s version. Her version and points of view is of no importance. The reader does not get even a small glimpse of Daisy’s inner mind. Maybe this is Henry James’s way of presenting the woman as an object, her inner self was unimportant and ignored. Women were treated like objects also in the sense that they should canalize all their powers to support their husbands. They were in other words a vital force for their husbands, but nothing for themselves.

WOMEN’S ROLE AS SUPPORTERS FOR THEIR HUSBANDS; BUT NOTHING IN THEMSELVES

In reality women were nothing but a reflection of their husbands.

It was believed and accepted that women’s character were different and less...
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