Daisy Miller - Death Be Not Proud: Innocence Misconstrued

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In 1878, Henry James wrote, Daisy Miller, a novella about a young American girl and her travels in Europe. Daisy Miller is a complex short story with many underlying themes such as appearance versus reality, knowledge versus innocence, outward action versus inward meditation, and Nature versus urbanity. In this short story, one is left to judge whether Daisy Miller, the main character of the story, is "a pretty American flirt" or a misunderstood, modern young woman. By probing into the complexities and contradictions of Daisy's character, it is obvious that Ms. Miller is merely a misunderstood young woman.

Through his novel, Henry James shows his readers that the gap between what people believe to be true and the actual truth can be large, hence the theme of appearance versus reality. To the Europeanized Americans in the novella, Daisy's independence causes her to appear immoral. She is innocent and uncultured and incautious but the circle sees only the surface of her character and the actions that character takes. She rebels not by having a great knowledge of the rules which bind the society and consciously deciding to throw them out the window, but by being limited in her scope of experience and by refusing to change her natural ways in order to please a culture to which she does not belong.

The great theme of the disparity between reality and appearance is at its greatest strength in the relationship between Winterbourne and Daisy because of the conflict which roars inside of Winterbourne regarding the appearance he cannot overcome and the reality he cannot accept. Daisy's lack of knowledge and experience deceives Winterbourne who is incapable of seeing life through the lens of inexperience after leaving America. He thus fails to understand her inexperience as innocence. Winterbourne attempts to apply the conventional rules he has accepted since leaving America to Daisy without realizing that she is not dissecting the world with the same...
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