Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daisy Winterbourne (but not really)

Daisy Miller has been my favorite read so far for this course. I love stories so heavily interested in the interactions between characters, where the characters are the plot. It was enlightening to see the sharp distinction between the two different cultures, suggesting that social responses are not so heavily reliant on inherent characteristics but, rather, the codes of societies that prove impregnably (pun intended) different even with their similarities—namely American and English-speaking European. Nurture over nature, I suppose.

Like we discussed in class, Daisy and Winterbourne just cannot “get” each other even though they try, and in the end it just turns out to be a matter of how long they want to keep up the acquaintance, as Mrs. Costello said. Well, at least for Winterbourne it seemed so; for Daisy, she died.

Otherwise, I found that this, my first read of Henry James, was very similar to other “books of manners,” specifically E.M. Forster who wrote about the conflicts within even these seemingly perfectly polite and rigid European societies, and those who break out of the mold the same as in any culture. Though E.M. Forster actually was only being born when Daisy Miller was published, I couldn’t help wondering how long this had been a serious cultural interest needing exploration, and it proved to me how accurately and similarly the fictions from that time and place depicted society. As an opposing allusion, in terms of character in Daisy Miller, I see the expansion of that “American commonness,” or attitude like Daisy Miller—the character—in the works of Hemingway depicting a “lost generation,” partly due to war but also to the expansion of American culture into European society that, in Henry James’ time, held strong against foreign cultural influence. Essentially I see a joint in English-speaking history between Winterbourne and Daisy Miller that not only emphasizes my simplistic enjoyment of the literature but resonates historically as well as socially.

1 comment:

  1. You're right to link James to Forster and Hemingway, Austen. In _The Sun Also Rises_, the Americans of the Lost Generation fail to understand the importance of the traditional culture of the bullfights, for example.