seriously evil witch here, guys! (irnan) wrote in bookish,
seriously evil witch here, guys!

Daisy Miller, by Henry James

Just finished Daisy Miller, and I'm... conflicted. To say the least.

One of James' favourite subjects was the differences between America and Europe, and what happens to the people caught up in those differences. Daisy's story is told by an American who's been living in Europe so long he practically is European: the story of a brief acquaintance with a young girl who is charming, funny and sweet, but at the same time an atrocious flirt.

The narrator, Winterbourne, spends most of the novella trying to decide if she's a malicious little coquette or just too naive for her own good; and while he manages to make up his mind by the end of the story - more or less - I'm still trying to. On the one hand, Daisy is a symbol of a society free of social conventions and the underlying assumption that everyone is a sinner.

On the other hand, I've seldom come across - in books or in real life - a character so deeply ignorant and completely naive that I want to slap her face and tell her to get a gorram clue. She reminds me of Amelia Sedley in that way. But there's still the undeniable fact that today, I would think nothing of acting the way she did, and people wouldn't condemn me for it. That makes me feel more sympathetic towards her. She's trapped in silly, even malicious conventions and ideas, yes. But the way Daisy deals with them - by completely ignoring them all - is foolhardy to say the least; it's as if she refuses to acknowledge that overstepping these boundaries could have an impact on her life, and that's simply not true.

It's a quandary.

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